Noninvasive Imaging Biomarker Identifies Small Airway Damage in Severe Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

TitleNoninvasive Imaging Biomarker Identifies Small Airway Damage in Severe Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsVasilescu, DM, Martinez, FJ, Marchetti, N, Galbán, CJ, Hatt, C, Meldrum, CA, Dass, C, Tanabe, N, Reddy, RM, Lagstein, A, Ross, BD, Labaki, WW, Murray, S, Xia, M, Curtis, JL, Hackett, TL, Kazerooni, EA, Criner, GJ, Hogg, JC, Han, MK
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine
Date Published09/2018

Rationale: Evidence suggests damage to small airways is a key pathologic lesion in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Computed tomography densitometry has been demonstrated to identify emphysema, but no such studies have been performed linking an imaging metric to small airway abnormality.Objectives: To correlate ex vivo parametric response mapping (PRM) analysis to in vivo lung tissue measurements of patients with severe COPD treated by lung transplantation and control subjects.Methods: Resected lungs were inflated, frozen, and systematically sampled, generating 33 COPD (n = 11 subjects) and 22 control tissue samples (n = 3 subjects) for micro-computed tomography analysis of terminal bronchioles (TBs; last generation of conducting airways) and emphysema.Measurements and Main Results: PRM analysis was conducted to differentiate functional small airways disease (PRMfSAD) from emphysema (PRMEmph). In COPD lungs, TB numbers were reduced (P = 0.01); surviving TBs had increased wall area percentage (P < 0.001), decreased circularity (P < 0.001), reduced cross-sectional luminal area (P < 0.001), and greater airway obstruction (P = 0.008). COPD lungs had increased airspace size (P < 0.001) and decreased alveolar surface area (P < 0.001). Regression analyses demonstrated unique correlations between PRMfSAD and TBs, with decreased circularity (P < 0.001), decreased luminal area (P < 0.001), and complete obstruction (P = 0.008). PRMEmph correlated with increased airspace size (P < 0.001), decreased alveolar surface area (P = 0.003), and fewer alveolar attachments per TB (P = 0.01).Conclusions: PRMfSAD identifies areas of lung tissue with TB loss, luminal narrowing, and obstruction. This is the first confirmation that an imaging biomarker can identify terminal bronchial pathology in established COPD and provides a noninvasive imaging methodology to identify small airway damage in COPD.