Rationale: Loss of the peripheral pulmonary vasculature, termed vascular pruning, is associated with disease severity in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Objectives: To determine if pulmonary vascular pruning is associated with asthma severity and exacerbations.
Methods: We measured the total pulmonary blood vessel volume (TBV) and the blood vessel volume of vessels less than 5 mm2 in cross-sectional area (BV5) and of vessels less than 10 mm2 (BV10) in cross-sectional area on noncontrast computed tomographic scans of participants from the Severe Asthma Research Program. Lower values of the BV5 to TBV ratio (BV5/TBV) and the BV10 to TBV ratio (BV10/TBV) represented vascular pruning (loss of the peripheral pulmonary vasculature).
Measurements and main results: Compared with healthy control subjects, patients with severe asthma had more pulmonary vascular pruning. Among those with asthma, those with poor asthma control had more pruning than those with well-controlled disease. Pruning of the pulmonary vasculature was also associated with lower percent predicted FEV1 and FVC, greater peripheral and sputum eosinophilia, and higher BAL serum amyloid A/lipoxin A4 ratio but not with low-attenuation area or with sputum neutrophilia. Compared with individuals with less pruning, individuals with the most vascular pruning had 150% greater odds of reporting an asthma exacerbation (odds ratio, 2.50; confidence interval, 1.05-5.98; P = 0.039 for BV10/TBV) and reported 45% more asthma exacerbations during follow-up (incidence rate ratio, 1.45; confidence interval, 1.02-2.06; P = 0.036 for BV10/TBV).
Conclusions: Pruning of the peripheral pulmonary vasculature is associated with asthma severity, control, and exacerbations, and with lung function and eosinophilia.
Keywords: eosinophilia; pruning; pulmonary vascular; severe asthma.