High-resolution computed tomography in healthy smokers and never-smokers: a 6-year follow-up study of men born in 1933

Acta Radiol. 2004 Feb;45(1):44-52. doi: 10.1080/02841850310002970.


Purpose: To elucidate whether emphysematous lesions and other high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) findings considered associated with smoking are part of a progressive process, and to measure the extent to which similar changes are found in never-smokers.

Material and methods: Healthy smokers and never-smokers were recruited from a randomized epidemiological study and investigated with a 6-year interval. Emphysema, parenchymal and subpleural nodules, ground-glass opacities, bronchial alterations, and septal lines were evaluated in 66 subjects (40 smokers, 11 of whom had stopped smoking in the interval, and 26 never-smokers). Lung function was tested.

Results: All except emphysematous lesions were present to some extent in never-smokers. Emphysema, parenchymal nodules, and septal lines occurred significantly more in current smokers, and a progression in extent of emphysema, ground-glass opacities, bronchial alterations and septal lines was seen. There was no significant change among those who stopped and never-smokers except for bronchial alterations, which progressed in never-smokers.

Conclusion: In healthy, elderly never-smokers a low extent of various HRCT findings has to be considered normal. Emphysema, parenchymal nodules, and ground-glass opacities are indicative of smoking-induced disease. Further progress may cease if smoking is stopped.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Smoking*
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*