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Barrel Chest

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Updated February 03, 2009

Definition: Barrel chest describes a rounded, bulging, almost barrel-like appearance of the chest that occurs as a result of long-term overinflation of the lungs. Because the lungs are overinflated with air, the rib cage stays partially expanded, giving the characteristic appearance of a barrel chest.

Barrel chest can be due to a variety of reasons, including osteoarthritis and aging, but is also a common finding in the later stages of emphysema. Barrel chest is quite obvious, and can be detected by your healthcare provider during a physical examination.

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