Chronic respiratory disease has emerged as a major nationwide health problem. Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases have increased to epidemic proportions and are currently significant causes of morbidity and mortality in this country. These conditions have revolutionized the practice of pulmonary medicine and have promoted the emergence of the allied health specialties, such as respiratory therapy and pulmonary nursing.
There has also developed increasing recognition of the dangers of occupational lung diseases and much has been done to prevent them and promote early diagnosis. Despite these new developments, tuberculosis remains a significant worldwide health problem. Many advances, however, have made treatment much easier (more available drugs and shorter treatment programs).
Lung disease is not restricted to any age group. Each year tens of thousands of children under the age of five die from various pulmonary causes and even more adult deaths occur annually due to chronic lung disease.
As is true in many other organ diseases, prevention and early diagnosis are the keys to ultimate control and cure. Respiratory therapists can play a very important role in assisting physicians in gathering clues in the clinical history, examination and physiologic measurements that may lead to early detection and treatment. To accomplish this end, respiratory therapists must learn about lung disease. Learning involves not only reading and studying didactic information, but devoting time to clinical rounds with a teacher well versed in the spectrum of lung disease.