The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) classification of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) does not always match with other clinical disease descriptors such as exacerbation frequency and quality of life, indicating that forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV(1)) is not a perfect descriptor of the disease. The aim of this study was to find out whether changes in airway geometry after inhalation of the most commonly used inhalation therapy in severe COPD can more adequately be described with an image-based approach than with spirometry. 10 COPD GOLD stage III patients were assessed in a double-blind crossover study. Airway volumes were analysed using segmentation of multi-slice computed tomography (MSCT) images; airway resistance was determined using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Distal airway volume significantly increased (p=0.011) in patients 4 h after receiving a budesonide/formoterol combination from 9.6±4.67 cm(3) to 10.14±4.81 cm(3). Also CFD-determined airway resistance significantly decreased (p=0.047) from 0.051±0.021 kPa·s·L(-1) to 0.043±0.019 kPa·s·L(-1). None of the lung function parameters showed a significant change. Only functional residual capacity (FRC) showed a trend to decline (p=0.056). Only the image-based parameters were able to predict the visit at which the combination product was administered. This study showed that imaging is a sensitive, complementary tool to describe changes in airway structure.