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Pulmonary emphysema. Chest X-ray showing emphysema of the lungs. The lungs (dark areas at left and right) are barrel-shaped with widely spaced ribs because of air trapped in their outer regions. The diaphragm (yellow, bottom) is low and flattened, with the heart (also yellow) seen above it at lower centre. In emphysema, the alveoli (tiny air sacs) of the lungs become damaged, and they enlarge as their walls become thinner and break. This reduces gas exchange, causing shortness of breath and sometimes heart or respiratory failure. Emphysema is usually due to cigarette smoking and is incurable.
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