Rationale: The development of early lung disease in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) remains poorly defined.
Objective: Determine whether asymptomatic infants with CF have evidence for changes in airway structure when assessed by high-resolution computed tomography, and whether airway structure correlates with airway function in this age group.
Methods: Thirteen infants with CF (8-33 mo) and 13 control infants (7-25 mo) were evaluated. Airway wall and lumen areas were measured from three 1-mm-thick cross-sectional images obtained from upper, middle, and lower lobes during a respiratory pause with the lungs inflated to an airway pressure of 20 cm H2O. Lung tissue density was measured from images obtained during a respiratory pause at FRC. Forced expiratory flows were measured by the rapid thoracic compression technique in 11 infants with CF.
Results: Airway wall area increased more per unit increase in airway size, whereas airway lumen area increased less per unit increase in airway size in the CF than in the control group. Among infants with CF, a greater ratio of wall to lumen area correlated with lower airway function. In addition, lung density at relaxed (passive) FRC was lower for infants with CF than for control infants (0.38 vs. 0.43 g/ml; p < 0.02).
Conclusions: Our results indicate that infants with CF have thickened airway walls, narrowed airway lumens, and air trapping, when assessed by high-resolution computed tomography, and measurements of airway structure correlated with airway function.