Introduction: High-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) is a widespread medical imaging method for the study of thoracic diseases. In asthma it is very useful particularly when it is difficult to achieve an effective control of disease, and in severe deterioration.
Aim: It was intended to evaluate the imaging changes by HRCT in asthmatic patients and to assess the expression according to the symptoms and duration of disease.
Material and methods: Thirty three patients from the Outpatient Department, with asthma classified in the different clinical severity stages according to GINA, were randomly included. They were submitted to HRCT (Somaton Plus-4, Siemens). The lesions were classified in reversible (mucoid impaction, acinar pattern centrilobular nodules and lobar collapse) and irreversible (bronchiectasis, bronchial wall-thickening, sequellar line shadows and emphysema).
Results: The 33 asthmatic patients (20 female) had an average age of 44.76 +/- 16.98 years and a mean disease evolution time of 23.39 +/-14.83 years. 30% had mild persistent asthma, 43% moderate persistent asthma and 27% severe persistent asthma. All the patients were under inhaled corticotherapy. Only 6 patients had normal HRCT 4 with mild persistent asthma (4 to 25 years of duration of disease) and 2 with moderate persistent (10 to 48 years of duration of disease). 81.81% of the patients had changes in HRCT, being the irreversible lesions the most frequent. The most important irreversible lesions were observed in severe asthma patients with longer duration of disease. All the patients with reversible lesions had also irreversible changes. Most of the bronchiectasis were centrally located and were found in severe asthma patients. Irreversible changes were identified in 3 patients with mild asthma and a maximum of 6 years of duration of disease.
Discussion: HRCT findings were related with asthma severity and long lasting disease but there are some asthmatics that also present early abnormalities, even in milder forms. All the groups of asthmatic patients presented all types of imaging changes, including the irreversible ones. In asthma these changes can be the result of individual patterns of response to frequent exacerbations, leading to a persistent chronic inflammatory process that will determine airway remodelling, even in early stages of disease and/or mild asthma.