Purpose: To evaluate, on thin-section CT scans, the prevalence of emphysema in patients with bronchiectasis and to correlate the results of thin-section CT scans with the results of pulmonary function tests, in order to question whether there was a particular functional test profile in this group of patients.
Patients and methods: This is a retrospective study including 90 patients having both thin-section CT scans and pulmonary function tests for bronchiectasis. A CT scoring system was established for assessing the airway disease by the severity and extent of bronchiectasis and by the extent of emphysema. CT scans were reviewed independently by two reviewers and final interpretation was obtained by consensus. Results of thin-section CT scans were correlated with results of pulmonary function tests, including FEV1 and FEV1/FVC to assess air-way obstruction, total lung capacity and residual volume to assess air trapping, and diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide/alveolar volume (DCO/VA).
Results: CT evidence of emphysema, which was noted in 45% of the patients (n = 41), was mainly localized in the same bronchopulmonary segments as bronchiectasis. The presence of emphysema was in relation to the extent and to the severity of bronchiectasis. Only eight patients with CT evidence of emphysema had functional evidence of emphysema (20%). When comparing the group of patients with CT evidence of emphysema with the group of patients with no CT evidence of emphysema, the group of patients with CT evidence of emphysema had significantly higher airflow obstruction and air trapping, had significantly lesser value of diffusing capacity, but with no decreased gas transfer (DCO/VA > 80%).
Conclusion: Our series suggests that there is a high prevalence of emphysema in patients with bronchiectasis. Emphysema that was not suggested using pulmonary function tests in most of the cases could explain in part the higher airway obstruction observed in the group of patients with CT evidence of emphysema. This study could support the suggestive notion that emphysema, which was mainly localized in bronchiectatic lobes, could be due to the inflammatory airway process.