Background: To study the relationship between collagen amount and degree of emphysema as assessed by mean linear intercept (Lm) and correlating these with lung function test workup in patients with and without COPD.
Methods: Lung function tests were assessed in 16 smokers or ex-smokers and 1 non-smoker in order to separate them into two groups: COPD (FEV1/FVC lower than 70%) and non-COPD. A piece of lung tissue was used to analyse the collagen amount (HYP) by means of a colorimetric method. Morphometry was assessed to divide patients into two groups according to Lm: Lm > 260 micrometers was considered non-emphysema and Lm < 260 mm mild-emphysema.
Results: The non-emphysema group had a mean Lm value of 246.08+/-3.12 micrometers and the mild-emphysema group of 276.29+/-4.26 micrometers. The amount of hydroxyproline was significantly higher in the mild-emphysema group than in the non-emphysema group (7.82+/-0.67 vs. 5.50+/-0.54 microgram/g tissue). There was a clear positive correlation between Lm and HYP (r=0.55) and a negative correlation between Lm and DlCO (R=-0.5092). No correlation was found between the functional test and HYP, nor were there significant differences between COPD and non-COPD patients for Lm and HYP.
Conclusions: Emphysema is associated with collagen deposition in the lungs, and air space size correlates with the amount of lung collagen even when there is no emphysema.