The clinical significance of collateral ventilation

Peter B. Terry, Richard J. Traystman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Oxygen delivery and carbon dioxide removal being critical to cell survival, mammals have developed collateral vascular and ventilation systems to ensure tissue viability. Collateral ventilation, defined as ventilation of alveoli via pathways that bypass normal airways, is present in humans and many other species. The presence of collateral ventilation can be beneficial in certain disease states, whereas its relative absence can predispose to other diseases. These well defined anatomical pathways contribute little to ventilation in normal humans, but modulate ventilation perfusion imbalance in a variety of diseases, including obstructive diseases, such as asthma and emphysema. These pathways can be affected by pharmaceuticals and inhaled gas compositions. The middle lobe and lingula, constrained by their isolated, segmental anatomy, have reduced collateral ventilation, which predisposes them to disease. Recently, attempts to improve the quality of life of patients with emphysema, by performing nonsurgical lung volume reduction via use of endobronchial valves, have led to mixed results, because the role of collateral ventilation in the success or failure of the procedure was not initially appreciated. This review describes the anatomical pathways of collateral ventilation, their physiology and relationship to disease states, their modulatory effects on gas exchange, treatment considerations, and their effect on diagnostic procedures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2251-2257
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of the American Thoracic Society
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2016


  • Asthma
  • Broncoalveolar lavage
  • Middle lobe syndrome
  • Pulmonary emphysema
  • Pulmonary gas exchange

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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