Role of the Lung in Total Body Clearance of Circulating Drugs

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Attention in recent years has focused upon the ability of lung to accumulate and/or to metabolise circulating hormones, drugs and other xenobiotic agents. Although often studied in broken cell preparations, such functions must be examined in intact lung before extrapolation to the situation in vivo is possible.

The role of lung in total body clearance of xenobiotic agents is often considered to be small, as compared with the liver it usually has much lower concentrations of degradative enzymes and a smaller mass. However, consideration of such factors as organ blood flow or stimulation of drug metabolising enzymes suggests that the contribution of the lung to total body clearance of some drugs is greater than previously recognised. This may explain some of the alterations in drug clearance seen clinically. For example, cigarette smoking may increase the clearance of certain xenobiotic compounds by stimulating pulmonary drug metabolising enzymes.

Pulmonary drug disposition may also be altered by conditions affecting cardiac output, such as exercise, hypoxia, and circulatory shock, or those affecting acid-base balance, such as hyperventilation. In addition, pneumotoxicants may affect pulmonary clearance of circulating drugs and xenobiotics.

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