Relationship between sputum inflammatory markers, lung function, and lung pathology on high-resolution computed tomography in children with cystic fibrosis

Pediatr Pulmonol. 2002 Jun;33(6):475-82. doi: 10.1002/ppul.10109.


High-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) is a sensitive technique for early visualisation and location of cystic fibrosis (CF) bronchopathology, and has been shown to detect acute reversible and chronic changes. It would be expected to correlate with markers of the underlying pathological processes, such as sputum cytokines and cytology, as well as with pulmonary function tests (PFTs). Our aim was to study the relationship between PFTs, sputum cytology, and sputum cytokine interleukin-8 (IL-8) and HRCT in CF patients. Prospective standardized collection of sputum samples was performed at the time of routine annual high-resolution CT scans. Forced expired volume in 1 sec (FEV(1)) and forced vital capacity (FVC) were recorded. Sputum processing was selective, with dispersal by the three-enzyme technique. IL-8 measurements were by kit assay. HRCT scans were scored by a pediatric radiologist, blinded to clinical condition, using a modified Bhalla score.Forty-three CT scans were performed on 34 children with CF between March 1998 and April 2000. Mean age was 12.3 years (range, 6-21 years), FEV(1) (% predicted) was 67% (range, 23-120%), and mean modified Bhalla score was 11.2 (range, 0-22). Sputum IL-8 concentration (mean, 86; range, 4-150 ng/mL) and total cell count (mean, 31.9 x 10(6)/mL; range, 21.8-42.0 x 10(6)/mL) were high. FEV(1) and FVC correlated with modified Bhalla score (r = -0.66, P < 0.0001 for both), and most individual components of the score, especially mosaic perfusion (r = -0.64, r = -0.61 respectively, P < 0.0001) and extent of bronchiectasis (r = -0.61, P < 0.0001 for both). The combination of these two predicted 58% of the variability in FEV(1) on analysis of variance (P < 0.0001). Sputum total cell count correlated weakly with modified Bhalla score (r = 0.38, P < 0.05) and with FEV(1) and FVC (r = -0.36, P < 0.05; and r = -0.46, P < 0.01). Differential cell counts, cell viability, and IL-8 did not correlate with modified Bhalla scores, or with reversible components such as mucus plugging, centrilobular nodules, or peribronchial thickening. In conclusion, pathological changes on HRCT correlated with lung function but not with sputum markers of inflammation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Count
  • Child
  • Cystic Fibrosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-8 / analysis
  • Male
  • Sputum / chemistry*
  • Sputum / cytology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Ultrasonography
  • Vital Capacity


  • Biomarkers
  • Interleukin-8