Purpose: A sensitive imaging technique that assesses ataxia telangiectasia (AT) lung disease without ionizing radiation is highly desirable. We designed a study to evaluate lung changes using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and to investigate the relationships among severity and extent of pulmonary abnormalities and clinical, microbiological and functional data in children and young adults with AT.
Methods: Fifteen AT patients (age, 11.3 years; range, 6-31) underwent 3.0-T MRI, spirometry, and deep throat or sputum culture. Images were scored using a modified Helbich score.
Results: Although only 8 patients (53 %) had recurrent/chronic respiratory symptoms, MRI identified lung abnormalities in all. Bronchiectasis, peribronchial thickening, mucous plugging, and collapse/consolidation were present in 60 %, 87 %, 67 %, and 13 % of cases, respectively, with no difference between subjects with or without respiratory symptoms. No difference in changes of specific scores was found between the two groups, but the total MRI score was higher in patients with respiratory symptoms (6.5 versus 5, respectively; p = 0.02). Total or specific MRI scores were not associated with patients' age. Of all scores, only mucous plugging subscore appeared significantly related to FEV1 (r = 0.7, p = 0.04) and FEF25-75% (r = 0.9, p = 0.001). MRI scores from patients with positive (n = 5) or negative (n = 10) sputum culture were not significantly different.
Conclusions: MRI is valuable in the assessment of extent and severity of pulmonary changes in children and adults with AT. It represents an helpful tool for the longitudinal evaluation of patients and may be also used as an outcome surrogate to track the effects of medications.