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Obstructive and Restrictive Lung Disease

by Greg Crowther


Fundamentally, limitations in the movement of air into and out of the lungs can be due to a restrictive problem, in which the lungs are not able to inflate to their normal extent, and/or an obstructive problem, in which the airways (not the lungs themselves) offer higher-than-normal resistance to airflow. The basic distinction can be understood in terms of clinical measurements of FVC and the FEV1/FVC ratio.


Lung spirometry: so important clinically.
Quantify the flow through the pulmonary tree.
Lung spirometry: inhale, exhale forcefully.
Quantify the flow through the pulmonary tree.

When the main thing that you know
Is that FVCs are low,
Restrictive lung disease might be the thing that limits flow.
Are ratios too small to please,
You should look for other symptoms of obstructive lung disease.


Other Files

sheet music (with melody play-back)

Lesson Plan

Songs like this one can be used during class meetings and/or in homework assignments. Either way, the song will be most impactful if students DO something with it, as opposed to just listening.

An initial, simple follow-up activity could be to answer the study questions below. A more extensive interaction with the song might entail (A) learning to sing it, using the audio file and/or sheet music as a guide, or (B) designing kinesthetic movements ("dance moves") to embody it. The latter activity should begin with students identifying the most important or most challenging content of the song, and deciding how to illustrate that particular content.

Study Questions

(1) What is the FVC?

(2) What is the FEV1?

(3) Why might people with restrictive lung disease have abnormally low FEV1's? How can these people be distinguished from people with obstructive disease, which also results in low FEV1's?

(4) In what sense is the respiratory system a "pulmonary tree"?

(Answers may be found on the answers page.)