The number of thick-walled peripheral lung vessels (defined as vessels of less than 100 mu diameter with two distinct elastic laminae) was calculated in 50 postmortem lungs. The size of the right ventricle, the amount and type of emphysema, and the proportion of small airways lumen in the lung were also quantitated. Eighteen patients had died as a result of chronic airways obstruction, 17 had symptoms of chronic chest disease but died from some unrelated cause, and 15 had no symptoms related to the respiratory system. The mean number of thick-walled peripheral lung vessels (TWPV) was found to be significantly greater in the fatal disease group than in both of the other groups. No significant difference was found between the mean values of the symptomatic and asymptomatic groups. The mean number of TWPV was significantly greater in cases with a right ventricular weight of more than 80 g than in those with a weight of less than 65 g. Positive correlations were found between the number of TWPV and right ventricular weight, total amount of emphysema in the lung, and the amounts of centrilobular and panlobular emphysema. Significant negative correlations were found between the number of TWPV and both the ratio of the weight of the left ventricle to the right ventricle and the proportion of small airways lumen in the lung.
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