Background: Quantitative computed tomographic (QCT) biomarkers of airway morphology hold potential for understanding and monitoring regional airway remodeling in asthmatic patients. Objective: We sought to determine whether the change in airway lumen area between total lung capacity (TLC) and functional residual capacity (FRC) lung volumes measured from CT imaging data was correlated with severe outcomes in asthmatic patients. Methods: We studied 152 asthmatic patients (90 female and 62 male patients) and 33 healthy subjects (12 female and 21 male subjects) using QCT. Postprocessing of airways at generations 1 to 5 (1 = trachea) was performed for wall area percentage, wall thickness percentage (WT%), lumen area at baseline total lung capacity (LATLC), lumen area at baseline functional residual capacity (LAFRC), and low attenuation area at FRC. A new metric (reflecting remodeling, distal air trapping, or both), Delta Lumen, was determined as follows: Percentage difference in lumen area (LATLC − LAFRC)/LATLC × 100. Results: Postprocessing of 4501 airway segments was performed (3681 segments in the 152 patients with asthma and 820 segments in the 33 healthy subjects; range, 17-28 segments per subject). Delta Lumen values were negatively correlated with WT% and low attenuation area (P <.01) in asthmatic patients. Delta Lumen values were significantly lower for airway generations 3 to 5 (segmental airways) in subjects undergoing hospitalization because of exacerbation and in patients with refractory asthma requiring treatment with systemic corticosteroids. WT% and low attenuation area were positively and Delta Lumen values were negatively associated with systemic corticosteroid treatment (P <.05), suggesting that a reduced Delta Lumen value is a potential outcome biomarker in patients with severe asthma. Conclusion: Reduced Delta Lumen value in the central airways measured by using QCT is a promising exploratory biomarker of unstable refractory asthma that warrants further study.
- Quantitative computed tomography
- air trapping
- airway remodeling
- severe asthma