Objective: It is not well known whether there is heterogeneity in the airway dimensions at different anatomic locations in individual patients with COPD. The first objective was to compare airway dimensions of the basal segment bronchus between COPD patients and healthy controls. The second and third objectives were to compare the airway dimensions in two anatomic locations, and to investigate the relationship between CT measurements and pulmonary function among COPD patients.
Methods: Thirty males with COPD (aged 68.7 +/- 8.1 years) and 18 healthy males (aged 64.9 +/- 14.0 years) were enrolled in the study. COPD was diagnosed according to the criteria of the Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease Workshop Report. Pulmonary function tests and CT scans were performed on all subjects. Airway dimensions and lung attenuation were automatically determined using methods that were validated with a phantom.
Results: Age, smoking index and height did not significantly differ between the COPD patients and healthy controls. The COPD patients had a significantly thicker airway wall than healthy controls. Among the COPD patients, there were no significant differences in the airway dimensions of bronchi in different segments; however, the airway and lung attenuation measurements of the lower lung field were more strongly correlated with FEV(1) than those of the upper lung field.
Conclusion: Patients with COPD had no significant heterogeneity in airway dimensions at different anatomic locations. The airway and lung attenuation measurements of the lower lung field were more strongly correlated with airflow limitation than those of the upper lung field.