Rationale and objectives: Investigators in this study compared standard-dose and low-dose inspiratory and expiratory computed tomographic (CT) images with regard to their usefulness for measuring the tracheal lumen in patients with or without tracheobronchomalacia (TBM). MATERIALS AND METHODS; Hospital records were reviewed to identify 10 consecutive patients with bronchoscopically proved TBM and 10 control subjects without TBM who underwent paired volumetric inspiratory and dynamic expiratory examinations with multisection CT. A low-dose (40-80 mA) technique was used for dynamic expiratory CT in 14 (70%) of the 20 subjects, and a standard dose (240-280 mA) was used in the remaining six (30%). All images were reviewed in a randomized, blinded fashion by two observers, who measured the tracheal lumen to determine the presence of TBM by consensus. The degree of confidence in measuring the tracheal lumen was graded on a four-point scale from 0(no confidence) to 3 (highest level of confidence), also by consensus of the two observers. Statistical analysis for differences in confidence level was performed with the Mann-Whitney U test. The image noise level was assessed by measuring the standard deviation of the presternal soft tissue, and statistical analysis for differences in noise level was performed with the t test.
Results: The level of confidence in tracheal lumen measurement was high, regardless of respiratory phase and dose (inspiratory mean, 2.9; median, 3; range, 2-3; expiratory low-dose mean, 2.6; median, 3; range, 2-3; expiratory standard-dose mean, 2.8; median, 3; range, 2-3). There was no significant difference in confidence level between standard- and low-dose techniques (P = .53). Excessive central airway collapse (expiratory reduction in cross-sectional diameter, > 50%) was seen in all 10 patients with TBM and in none of the control subjects.
Conclusion: The acquisition of paired inspiratory and dynamic expiratory images with multisection helical CT is a promising method for diagnosing TBM. The low-dose technique performs as well as the standard-dose technique for the dynamic expiratory phase, with a similar degree of confidence for measuring the tracheal lumen.