Imaging approaches to understand disease complexity: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as a clinical model

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2018 Feb 1;124(2):512-520. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00143.2017. Epub 2017 Jul 27.


The clinical manifestations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) reflect an aggregate of multiple pulmonary and extrapulmonary processes. It is increasingly clear that full assessment of these processes is essential to characterize disease burden and to tailor therapy. Medical imaging has advanced such that it is now possible to obtain in vivo insight in the presence and severity of lung disease-associated features. In this review, we have assembled data from multiple disciplines of medical imaging research to review the role of imaging in characterization of COPD. Topics include imaging of the lungs, body composition, and extrapulmonary tissue metabolism. The primary focus is on imaging modalities that are widely available in clinical care settings and that potentially contribute to describing COPD heterogeneity and enhance our insight in underlying pathophysiological processes and their structural and functional effects.

Keywords: body composition; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; imaging; lung.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Body Composition
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Molecular Imaging*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed