CT quantification of pulmonary emphysema: assessment of lung structure and function

Crit Rev Comput Tomogr. 2002;43(6):399-417.


Accurate diagnosis and quantification of pulmonary emphysema in vivo is important to understand the natural history of the disease, to assess the extent of the disease, and to evaluate and follow-up therapeutic interventions. Because pulmonary emphysema is defined by pathology, new diagnostic methods for quantification should be validated by reference to pathological and histological standards. Recent studies have addressed the capability of computed tomography (CT) to accurately quantify pulmonary emphysema. These studies that have been overviewed in this article have been based on CT scans obtained after deep inspiration or expiration, on subjective visual grading, and on objective measurements of attenuation values by using dedicated software providing numerical data on two-dimensional and on three-dimensional approaches, and compared CT data with pulmonary function tests. More recently, fractal and textural analyses were applied to CT scans to assess the presence, extent, and types of emphysema. Quantitative CT has already been used in patient selection for surgical treatment of pulmonary emphysema and in pharmacotherapeutical trials. However, despite numerous and extensive studies already available, this technique has not yet been standardized, and important questions about how to best use CT for the quantification of pulmonary emphysema remain to be addressed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung / physiology
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / surgery
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*