Advanced imaging in COPD: insights into pulmonary pathophysiology

J Thorac Dis. 2014 Nov;6(11):1570-85. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2072-1439.2014.11.30.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) involves a complex interaction of structural and functional abnormalities. The two have long been studied in isolation. However, advanced imaging techniques allow us to simultaneously assess pathological processes and their physiological consequences. This review gives a comprehensive account of the various advanced imaging modalities used to study COPD, including computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and the nuclear medicine techniques positron emission tomography (PET) and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). Some more recent developments in imaging technology, including micro-CT, synchrotron imaging, optical coherence tomography (OCT) and electrical impedance tomography (EIT), are also described. The authors identify the pathophysiological insights gained from these techniques, and speculate on the future role of advanced imaging in both clinical and research settings.

Keywords: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); medical imaging; pulmonary ventilation; respiratory function tests; respiratory physiology.

Publication types

  • Review