Pediatric Emphysema

Pediatric Emphysema



Congenital (present at birth) abnormalities can cause emphysema in children.

Expanded overview

Emphysema occurs when there is damage to the alveoli (air sacs in the lungs). Typically a characteristic of adults with a history of smoking, this lung condition causes severe shortness of breath. In very rare cases, children can develop emphysema due to an abnormality that is present when they are born.


A hereditary (passed down in families) gene mutation causes emphysema in children.


Types of emphysema in children include:

  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency – this protein protects the alveoli (air sacs in the lungs) from damage due to a certain enzyme in the body. This damage to the air sacs of the lungs can lead to emphysema.
  • Lobar emphysema – a rare respiratory condition in which air enters the lungs but cannot escape, leading to over-inflation of the lungs


Signs and symptoms of emphysema may include:

  • Breathing very quickly (respiratory distress)
  • Bluish tint to the skin (due to decreased oxygen in the blood)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Enlarged chest
  • Underdevelopment of the cartilage that supports the bronchial tube (the passages through which air flows in and out of the lungs)

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