If you have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), then you may have heard of barrel chest. However, do you know what it means for your COPD?
The shape of your chest is created by your rib cage. Normally, when resting, your ribs rest on an angle that slopes downwards from the back to the front. However, in some cases, your ribs don’t rest at an angle, but at a horizontal position. The horizontal resting position gives the chest a barrel appearance as it is increasing the diameter of the chest.
Barrel chest can be found in populations that live in higher altitudes due to their need to compensate for thinner air. Body builders who work to build their pectoral muscles may also develop barrel chest. However, if a patient with COPD presents with barrel chest, it’s a sign of the disease’s progression.
Barrel chest in a patient with COPD means that their lungs are over-expanded. This means that their lungs have lost so much of their elasticity that the lungs are now hyper-inflated. Since the movement of air in and out of the lungs is obstructed, an excess amount of air collects in them. When this happens, the diaphragm, which holds the most importance in breathing in air, becomes flattened instead of maintaining its normal dome shape. This makes it difficult for the muscle to work correctly.
People with emphysema typically develop barrel chest and use the muscles in the ribs and neck to compensate and help with the breathing process. While this may work while the body is at rest, it is difficult when the breathing rate needs to increase during exercise.
Barrel chest is typically associated with emphysema, but not all people with COPD will develop this characteristic of emphysema. Always make sure to discuss the results of x-rays and the progression of your disease with your physician.
Source: www.healthcentral.com, Accessed: 8/9/17