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Chronic airflow limitation has the highest morbidity rate of any significant chronic pulmonary disorder in the United States and is the second most common cause of hospital admissions. It is difficult to estimate its exact incidence because most diseases of the respiratory tract are not reportable and there is some confusion in definition of terms related to diseases of this type. However, the Social Security Administration reports that CAL ranked only second to heart disease as the cause of disability in men over the age of 40. The incidence of CAL is increasing and, although not all specific causes are known, factors contributing to its development and affecting its degree of severity have been identified. Heavy cigarette smoking is probably the most important factor, and others are industrial pollution, occupational exposure to irritating inhalants, allergy, autoimmunity, genetic predisposition, and chronic infections.
Prevention is best accomplished through education of the public about the hazards of cigarette smoking and air pollution and the need for early detection and prompt treatment of respiratory disorders that could become chronic in nature. The American Lung Association is particularly interested in education of lay persons in these matters and in the prevention of all types of respiratory disorders. This agency, which has local offices distributed throughout the country, is an excellent source of information about prevention and the latest developments in the treatment of respiratory diseases.
As the disease progresses, the symptoms of dyspnea, weakness, and cough become more severe. The patient has difficulty expelling air from the lungs and the cough becomes more productive of thick, tenacious sputum. The patient looks anxious and drawn and may speak in short, hesitant sentences. Symptoms related to disturbances of the respiratory and circulatory systems and acid-base balance may appear as these complications develop.
Chronic airflow limitation is a disease that has no cure; its chronic nature requires an ongoing program of assessment and long-term care that is planned and revised as the patient's needs dictate. Whatever the patient care setting—acute care facility, out-patient clinic, long-term care facility, or home—the elements of care presented below are essential to the effective management of the condition.
When patients are informed about the purpose of the tests and therapy they are more likely to participate in the planned regimen of care and to become motivated to continue carrying out their responsibilities in the management of their illness. Those who work with the patient should clarify the goals and offer encouragement when they make progress toward those goals, no matter how slight the improvement might be. This implies, of course, that all members of the health care team have an understanding of the disease, the meaning of various test values, and the purpose of each aspect of care.
Poor appetite and the potential for dehydration are problems commonly associated with pulmonary disease. Purulent sputum, coughing, and fatigue can contribute to loss of interest in eating. Mouth breathing, increased respiratory rate, and frequent expectorating contribute to the loss of fluid.
Frequent oral hygiene and mouth care can help diminish mouth odor and unpleasant taste. A short period of rest just prior to each meal can help overcome the problem of fatigue. Meals should be spaced so that the stomach is not overloaded at any one time; five small meals, rather than three a day, can help avoid overfilling of the stomach and interference with breathing. Postural drainage and similar procedures should not be done on a full stomach, nor should they be scheduled just before a meal. Adequate hydration can be accomplished by an intake of at least 3000 ml of liquid each day. Unless contraindicated, this should include bouillon, fruit juices, and other liquids the patient finds enjoyable and refreshing.
Physical activity may be severely limited by CAL because of inadequate ventilation and decreased circulation. As with all other aspects of patient care, plans to increase exercise tolerance and promote physical activity should be designed according to the patient's cardiopulmonary status. Techniques to promote muscular relaxation and breathing control are the first step, followed by gradual increase in activity as the patient's progress and general physical condition permit.
Adequate rest is essential, but the hazards of immobility must be avoided, especially in patients who are fearful that any physical activity may precipitate an exhausting episode of coughing and dyspnea. The goal is to provide sufficient rest so that the body's natural restorative processes can work, but to avoid long periods of sleeping and lying in bed during the day.
When the patient's cardiopulmonary condition is such that bed rest is prescribed, care is taken to avoid complete physical inactivity, which will only serve to increase problems of inadequate ventilation and muscle weakness. Proper positioning is essential and should be such that the neck is extended, with the chin well off the chest. Support under the thighs while the patient is supine will release tension on abdominal muscles, thereby facilitating movement of the diaphragm for deep breathing and effective coughing. The arms and hands should also be supported on pillows and positioned away from the sides to allow for maximum lung expansion without elevation of the upper chest. A foot board is placed so as to maintain good posture, promote comfort, and ensure good muscle tone in the legs and feet.
Contact with others who have an upper respiratory infection should be avoided, as should being in large crowds during the season when such infections are common. A high level of resistance should be maintained through good personal hygiene and adequate nutrition. Vaccines to guard against influenza are recommended. Patients should be taught to watch for changes in color and amount of sputum. If a change in sputum or any other symptoms of infection appear, this should be reported.
Hydration is considered especially valuable in improvement of ventilation. Inhaled air should be moist so as to thin the secretions for removal and soothe the irritated mucous membranes. This can be accomplished through the use of vaporizers and humidifiers, either for environmental humidification in the patient's room or in conjunction with oxygen therapy and the administration of aerosols. Oral intake of fluids is also important. Bronchodilators, usually in the form of aerosols, sometimes as oral medications, are usually prescribed. The aerosol method of delivery depends on the ability of the patient to breathe deeply so that the medication reaches the lower segments of the respiratory tract.
Controlled deep breathing patterns are especially helpful in emptying the lungs and providing adequate ventilation. The patient with CAL is taught to expand the lower chest and to use the accessory muscles and diaphragm to improve the breathing pattern. Performance of these breathing patterns is important because patients probably are not in the habit of breathing in the most effective manner, making optimum use of remaining pulmonary function. The patient is taught slow, controlled, and steady breathing. Respiratory effort should be concentrated on slow expiratory flow through parted or pursed lips. Pushing the air out of the lungs too forcefully can bring on collapse of the airway structures. During instruction, the caregiver watches for signs of exhaustion and warns against overdoing the deep breathing until the patient has adjusted to it. A correct breathing pattern should be coordinated with all of the patient's daily activities so that it becomes habitual and is done without too much thought.
Effective coughing does not come easily to patients with this condition. They may have experienced too many episodes in which a dry hacking cough has caused exhaustion, increased dyspnea, and prevented removal of tenacious sputum from the air passages. They must be convinced that, when done correctly, coughing can remove mucous plugs and relieve rather than produce dyspnea. Patients should be warned that explosive coughing is not very effective, can damage the airways, and can lead to exhaustion. The objective of coughing is to move secretions upward gradually so that they can be expectorated.
Postural drainage is also valuable in facilitating the removal of mucus from the air passages. The various maneuvers involved in this procedure are designed to take advantage of gravity flow as a means of clearing specified segments of the air passages when normal air flow is not sufficient to move secretions or stimulate the cough reflex. Chest percussion and vibration may be employed during postural drainage to loosen secretions. oxygen therapy is used as a supportive measure when there is decreased oxygenation of arterial blood. It can be administered to ambulatory patients being cared for at home. Blood gas analysis is an excellent guide in determining the need for initiating oxygen therapy and for monitoring dosage.
chron·ic(kron'ik), Avoid the jargonistic use of this word to refer to prolonged therapy, as in chronic estrogen replacement.
chronicadjective Referring to a condition lasting ≥ 3 months–per US Natl Center for Health Statistics; persisting or occurring over a long period of time. Cf Acute.
chronicLasting for a long time. A chronic disorder may be mild or severe but will usually involve some long-term or permanent organic change in the body. From the Greek chronos , time.
- (of a disease) of long duration, developing slowly but not ACUTE.
- (of a radiation dose) applied at a low level over a long time, rather than at an acute dose level.
chron·ic(kron'ik) Avoid the jargonistic use of this word to refer to prolonged therapy, as in chronic estrogen replacement.
Patient discussion about Chronic
Q. What is a Chronic disease? Please explain what makes a disease be considered chronic?
Q. What Is the Treatment for Chronic Sinusitis? My daughter has been suffering from sinusitis for years now. We've tried all possible drugs but nothing really seems to help her anymore. Is there another option for treating chronic sinusitis?
Q. What causes a chronic cough? I had a cold for a few days, acompanied with cough. it all passed and the cough stays for over a month now! is it chronical? what to do in that case?
but this is just a guess. you may have another cause.