2012 Volume 61 Issue 3 Pages 353-363
Modern understanding of lung sounds started with a historical article by Forgacs. Since then, many studies have clarified the changes of lung sounds due to airway narrowing as well as the mechanism of genesis for these sounds. Studies using bronchoprovocation have shown that an increase of the frequency and/or intensity of lung sounds was a common finding of airway narrowing and correlated well with lung function. Bronchoprovocation studies have also disclosed that wheezing may not be as sensitive as changes in basic lung sounds in acute airway narrowing.
A forced expiratory wheeze (FEW) may be an early sign of airway obstruction in patients with bronchial asthma. Studies of FEW showed that airway wall oscillation and vortex shedding in central airways are the most likely mechanisms of the generation of expiratory wheezes. Studies on the genesis of wheezes have disclosed that inspiratory and expiratory wheezes may have the same mechanism of generation as a flutter/flow limitation mechanism, either localized or generalized.
In lung sound analysis, the narrower the airways are, the higher the frequency of breathing sounds is, and, if a patient has higher than normal breathing sounds, i.e., bronchial sounds, he or she may have airway narrowing or airway inflammation. It is sometimes difficult to detect subtle changes in lung sounds; therefore, we anticipate that automated analysis of lung sounds will be used to overcome these difficulties in the near future.
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