Ever since the site and nature of airflow obstruction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was described by Hogg, Thurlbeck, and Macklem, investigators have been looking for methods to noninvasively measure the airway wall dimensions. Recent advances in computed tomography technology and new computer algorithms have made it possible to visualize and measure the airway wall and lumen without the need for tissue. However, while there is great hope for computed tomographic assessment of airways, it is well known that the spatial resolution does not allow small airways to be visualized and there are still concerns about the sensitivity of these measurements obtained from these airways. Optical coherence tomography is a new bronchoscopic imaging technique that has generated considerable interest because the spatial resolution is much higher than computed tomography. While relatively more invasive than computed tomography, it has the advantage of not exposing the patient to ionizing radiation. This review discusses some of the data surrounding these two imaging techniques in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. These imaging techniques are extremely important in the assessment of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease because therapy that is designed to modulate the inflammation in airways may be contraindicated in subjects with the emphysema phenotype and visa versa. Therefore, these new imaging techniques are very likely to play a front-line role in the study of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and will, hopefully, allow clinicians to phenotype individuals, thereby personalizing their treatment.
computed tomography; airways; optical coherence tomography; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Airway remodeling is extremely important in the pathophysiology of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Since the site and nature of airflow obstruction was described by Hogg, Thurlbeck, and Macklem, investigators have been looking for methods to noninvasively measure the airway wall dimensions in subjects with and at risk for COPD. The advent and proliferation of computed tomography (CT) initially allowed investigators to quantify changes in lung parenchymal structure in subjects with emphysema, and more recently attention has turned to the measurement of airway wall dimensions. Unfortunately, while the lung density is relatively easy to quantify, reliable airway measurements have proven to be more difficult to obtain. However, recent advances in CT technology and new computer algorithms have changed the way investigators have measured airways using CT, and it is now hoped that many of the early issues surrounding airway measurements can be resolved. The measurement of airway wall dimensions is important because it is well known that chronic airflow limitation can be caused by a combination of airway and parenchymal changes. The phenotypic expression of these different subtypes of COPD is vital because a therapy designed to modulate the inflammation in airways may be contraindicated in subjects with the emphysema phenotype and visa versa. Therefore, these new imaging techniques are very likely to play a front-line role in the study of COPD and will, hopefully, allow clinicians to phenotype individuals, thereby personalizing their treatment.
computed tomography; airways; emphysema; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Measurements of lung function, including spirometry and body plethesmography, are easy to perform and are the current clinical standard for assessing disease severity. However, these lung functional techniques do not adequately explain the observed variability in clinical manifestations of disease and offer little insight into the relationship of lung structure and function. Lung imaging and the image based assessment of lung disease has matured to the extent that it is common for clinical, epidemiologic, and genetic investigation to have a component dedicated to image analysis. There are several exciting imaging modalities currently being used for the non-invasive study of lung anatomy and function. In this review we will focus on two of them, x-ray computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. Following a brief introduction of each method we detail some of the most recent work being done to characterize smoking-related lung disease and the clinical applications of such knowledge.
Radiology and other Imaging; COPD; Asthma; Emphysema
The major sites of obstruction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are small airways (<2 mm in diameter). We wanted to determine whether there was a relationship between small-airway obstruction and emphysematous destruction in COPD.
We used multidetector computed tomography (CT) to compare the number of airways measuring 2.0 to 2.5 mm in 78 patients who had various stages of COPD, as judged by scoring on the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) scale, in isolated lungs removed from patients with COPD who underwent lung transplantation, and in donor (control) lungs. MicroCT was used to measure the extent of emphysema (mean linear intercept), the number of terminal bronchioles per milliliter of lung volume, and the minimum diameters and cross-sectional areas of terminal bronchioles.
On multidetector CT, in samples from patients with COPD, as compared with control samples, the number of airways measuring 2.0 to 2.5 mm in diameter was reduced in patients with GOLD stage 1 disease (P = 0.001), GOLD stage 2 disease (P = 0.02), and GOLD stage 3 or 4 disease (P<0.001). MicroCT of isolated samples of lungs removed from patients with GOLD stage 4 disease showed a reduction of 81 to 99.7% in the total cross-sectional area of terminal bronchioles and a reduction of 72 to 89% in the number of terminal bronchioles (P<0.001). A comparison of the number of terminal bronchioles and dimensions at different levels of emphysematous destruction (i.e., an increasing value for the mean linear intercept) showed that the narrowing and loss of terminal bronchioles preceded emphysematous destruction in COPD (P<0.001).
These results show that narrowing and disappearance of small conducting airways before the onset of emphysematous destruction can explain the increased peripheral airway resistance reported in COPD. (Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and others.)
Rationale: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), characterized by airflow limitation, is a disorder with high phenotypic and genetic heterogeneity. Pulmonary emphysema is a major but variable component of COPD; familial data suggest that different components of COPD, such as emphysema, may be influenced by specific genetic factors.
Objectives: To identify genetic determinants of emphysema assessed through high-resolution chest computed tomography in individuals with COPD.
Methods: We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of emphysema determined from chest computed tomography scans with a total of 2,380 individuals with COPD in three independent cohorts of white individuals from (1) a cohort from Bergen, Norway, (2) the Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints (ECLIPSE) Study, and (3) the National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT). We tested single-nucleotide polymorphism associations with the presence or absence of emphysema determined by radiologist assessment in two of the three cohorts and a quantitative emphysema trait (percentage of lung voxels less than –950 Hounsfield units) in all three cohorts.
Measurements and Main Results: We identified association of a single-nucleotide polymorphism in BICD1 with the presence or absence of emphysema (P = 5.2 × 10−7 with at least mild emphysema vs. control subjects; P = 4.8 × 10−8 with moderate and more severe emphysema vs. control subjects).
Conclusions: Our study suggests that genetic variants in BICD1 are associated with qualitative emphysema in COPD. Variants in BICD1 are associated with length of telomeres, which suggests that a mechanism linked to accelerated aging may be involved in the pathogenesis of emphysema.
Clinical trial registered with www.clinicaltrials.gov (NCT00292552).
emphysema; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; BICD1; single-nucleotide polymorphism
Rationale: Genome-wide association studies have shown significant associations between variants near hedgehog interacting protein HHIP, FAM13A, and cholinergic nicotinic acetylcholine receptor CHRNA3/5 with increased risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in smokers; however, the disease mechanisms behind these associations are not well understood.
Objectives: To identify the association between replicated loci and COPD-related phenotypes in well-characterized patient populations.
Methods: The relationship between these three loci and COPD-related phenotypes was assessed in the Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate End-point (ECLIPSE) cohort. The results were validated in the family-based International COPD Genetics Network (ICGN).
Measurements and Main Results: The CHRNA3/5 locus was significantly associated with pack-years of smoking (P = 0.002 and 3 × 10−4), emphysema assessed by a radiologist using high-resolution computed tomography (P = 2 × 10−4 and 4.8 × 10−5), and airflow obstruction (P = 0.004 and 1.8 × 10−5) in the ECLIPSE and ICGN populations, respectively. However, variants in the IREB2 gene were only significantly associated with FEV1. The HHIP locus was not associated with smoking intensity but was associated with FEV1/FVC (P = 1.9 × 10−4 and 0.004 in the ECLIPSE and ICGN populations). The HHIP locus was also associated with fat-free body mass (P = 0.007) and with both retrospectively (P = 0.015) and prospectively (P = 0.024) collected COPD exacerbations in the ECLIPSE cohort. Single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the FAM13A locus were associated with lung function.
Conclusions: The CHRNA3/5 locus was associated with increased smoking intensity and emphysema in individuals with COPD, whereas the HHIP and FAM13A loci were not associated with smoking intensity. The HHIP locus was associated with the systemic components of COPD and with the frequency of COPD exacerbations. FAM13A locus was associated with lung function.
COPD exacerbations; nicotine addiction; high-resolution CT; genetic association analysis; emphysema
HIV-infected patients are at increased risk for development of pulmonary complications, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Inflammation associated with sub-clinical infection has been postulated to promote COPD. Persistence of Pneumocystis (Pc) is associated with HIV and COPD, although a causal relationship has not been established. We used a simian/human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV) model of HIV infection to study pulmonary effects of Pc colonization. SHIV-infected/Pc-colonized monkeys developed progressive obstructive pulmonary disease characterized by increased emphysematous tissue and bronchial-associated lymphoid tissue. Elevated Th2 cytokines and pro-inflammatory mediators in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid coincided with Pc colonization and pulmonary function decline. These results support the concept that an infectious agent contributes to development of HIV-associated lung disease and suggests that Pc colonization may be a risk factor for the development of HIV-associated COPD. Furthermore, this model allows examination of early host responses important to disease progression thus identifying potential therapeutic targets for COPD.
Pneumocystis; COPD; SHIV; AIDS; HIV
The objective of the present study was to determine the association between CT phenotypes—emphysema by low attenuation area and bronchitis by airway wall thickness—and body composition parameters in a large cohort of subjects with and without COPD. In 452 COPD subjects and 459 subjects without COPD, CT scans were performed to determine emphysema (%LAA), airway wall thickness (AWT-Pi10), and lung mass. Muscle wasting based on FFMI was assessed by bioelectrical impedance. In both the men and women with COPD, FFMI was negatively associated with %LAA. FMI was positively associated with AWT-Pi10 in both subjects with and without COPD. Among the subjects with muscle wasting, the percentage emphysema was high, but the predictive value was moderate. In conclusion, the present study strengthens the hypothesis that the subgroup of COPD cases with muscle wasting have emphysema. Airway wall thickness is positively associated with fat mass index in both subjects with and without COPD.
Background: The smaller airways, < 2 mm in diameter, offer little resistance in normal lungs, but become the major site of obstruction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Objective: To examine bronchiolar remodeling and alveolar destruction in COPD using micro–computed tomography (micro-CT).
Methods: Micro-CT was used to measure the number and cross-sectional lumen area of terminal bronchioles (TB) and alveolar mean linear intercept (Lm) in 4 lungs removed from patients with very severe (GOLD-4) COPD and 4 unused donor lungs that served as controls. These lungs were inflated with air to a transpulmonary pressure (PL) of 30 cm H2O and held at PL 10 cm H2O while they were frozen solid in liquid nitrogen vapor. A high resolution CT scan was performed on the frozen specimen prior to cutting it into 2-cm thick transverse slices. Representative core samples of lung tissue 2 cm long and 1 cm in diameter cut from each slice were fixed at −80°C in a 1% solution of gluteraldehyde in pure acetone, post-fixed in osmium, critically point dried, and examined by micro-CT.
Results: A 10-fold reduction in terminal bronchiolar number and a 100-fold reduction in their minimal cross-sectional lumen area were measured in both emphysematous and non-emphysematous regions of the COPD lungs.
Conclusions: The centrilobular emphysematous phenotype of COPD is associated with narrowing and obliteration of the terminal bronchioles that begins prior to the onset of emphysematous destruction.
COPD, small airway obstruction; termination bronchioles, reduction of; emphysematous destruction
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a complex condition with pulmonary and extra-pulmonary manifestations. This study describes the heterogeneity of COPD in a large and well characterised and controlled COPD cohort (ECLIPSE).
We studied 2164 clinically stable COPD patients, 337 smokers with normal lung function and 245 never smokers. In these individuals, we measured clinical parameters, nutritional status, spirometry, exercise tolerance, and amount of emphysema by computed tomography.
COPD patients were slightly older than controls and had more pack years of smoking than smokers with normal lung function. Co-morbidities were more prevalent in COPD patients than in controls, and occurred to the same extent irrespective of the GOLD stage. The severity of airflow limitation in COPD patients was poorly related to the degree of breathlessness, health status, presence of co-morbidity, exercise capacity and number of exacerbations reported in the year before the study. The distribution of these variables within each GOLD stage was wide. Even in subjects with severe airflow obstruction, a substantial proportion did not report symptoms, exacerbations or exercise limitation. The amount of emphysema increased with GOLD severity. The prevalence of bronchiectasis was low (4%) but also increased with GOLD stage. Some gender differences were also identified.
The clinical manifestations of COPD are highly variable and the degree of airflow limitation does not capture the heterogeneity of the disease.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a heterogeneous syndrome, including emphysema and airway disease. Phenotypes defined on the basis of chest computed tomography (CT) may decrease disease heterogeneity and aid in the identification of candidate genes for COPD subtypes. To identify these genes, we performed genome-wide linkage analysis in extended pedigrees from the Boston Early-Onset COPD Study, stratified by emphysema status (defined by chest CT scans) of the probands, followed by genetic association analysis of positional candidate genes. A region on chromosome 1p showed strong evidence of linkage to lung function traits in families of emphysema-predominant probands in the stratified analysis (LOD score = 2.99 in families of emphysema-predominant probands versus 1.98 in all families). Association analysis in 949 individuals from 127 early-onset COPD pedigrees revealed association for COPD-related traits with an intronic single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in transforming growth factor-β receptor-3 (TGFBR3) (P = 0.005). This SNP was significantly associated with COPD affection status comparing 389 cases from the National Emphysema Treatment Trial to 472 control smokers (P = 0.04), and with FEV1 (P = 0.004) and CT emphysema (P = 0.05) in 3,117 subjects from the International COPD Genetics Network. Gene-level replication of association with lung function was seen in 427 patients with COPD from the Lung Health Study. In conclusion, stratified linkage analysis followed by association testing identified TGFBR3 (betaglycan) as a potential susceptibility gene for COPD. Published human microarray and murine linkage studies have also demonstrated the importance of TGFBR3 in emphysema and lung function, and our group and others have previously found association of COPD-related traits with TGFB1, a ligand for TGFBR3.
betaglycan; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; computed tomography; linkage; single nucleotide polymorphism
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by both airway remodeling and parenchymal destruction. The identification of unique biomarker patterns associated with airway dominant versus parenchymal dominant patterns would support the existence of unique phenotypes representing independent biologic processes. A cross-sectional study was performed to examine the association of serum biomarkers with radiographic airway and parenchymal phenotypes of COPD.
Serum from 234 subjects enrolled in a CT screening cohort was analyzed for 33 cytokines and growth factors using a multiplex protein array. The association of serum markers with forced expiratory volume in one second percent predicted (FEV1%) and quantitative CT measurements of airway thickening and emphysema was assessed with and without stratification for current smoking status. Significant associations were found with several serum inflammatory proteins and measurements of FEV1%, airway thickening, and parenchymal emphysema independent of smoking status. The association of select analytes with airway thickening and emphysema was independent of FEV1%. Furthermore, the relationship between other inflammatory markers and measurements of physiologic obstruction or airway thickening was dependent on current smoking status.
Airway and parenchymal phenotypes of COPD are associated with unique systemic serum biomarker profiles. Serum biomarker patterns may provide a more precise classification of the COPD syndrome, provide insights into disease pathogenesis and identify targets for novel patient-specific biological therapies.
Rationale: Computed tomography (CT) has been shown to reliably measure the airway wall dimensions of medium to large airways. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a promising new micron-scale resolution imaging technique that can image small airways 2 mm in diameter or less.
Objectives: To correlate OCT measurements of airway dimensions with measurements assessed using CT scans and lung function.
Methods: Forty-four current and former smokers received spirometry, CT scans, and OCT imaging at the time of bronchoscopy. Specific bronchial segments were identified and measured using the OCT images and three-dimensional reconstructions of the bronchial tree using CT.
Measurements and Main Results: There was a strong correlation between CT and OCT measurements of lumen and wall area (r = 0.84, P < 0.001, and r = 0.89, P < 0.001, respectively). Compared with CT, OCT measurements were lower for both lumen and wall area by 31 and 66%, respectively. The correlation between FEV1% predicted and CT and OCT measured wall area (as percentage of the total area) of fifth-generation airways was very strong (r = −0.79, r = −0.75), but the slope of the relationship was much steeper using OCT than using CT (y = −0.33x + 82, y = −0.1x + 78), indicating greater sensitivity of OCT in detecting changes in wall measurements that relate to FEV1.
Conclusions: OCT can be used to measure airway wall dimensions. OCT may be more sensitive at detecting small airway wall changes that lead to FEV1 changes in individuals with obstructive airway disease.
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Rationale: The development of early lung disease in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) remains poorly defined. Objective: Determine whether asymptomatic infants with CF have evidence for changes in airway structure when assessed by high-resolution computed tomography, and whether airway structure correlates with airway function in this age group. Methods: Thirteen infants with CF (8–33 mo) and 13 control infants (7–25 mo) were evaluated. Airway wall and lumen areas were measured from three 1-mm-thick cross-sectional images obtained from upper, middle, and lower lobes during a respiratory pause with the lungs inflated to an airway pressure of 20 cm H2O. Lung tissue density was measured from images obtained during a respiratory pause at FRC. Forced expiratory flows were measured by the rapid thoracic compression technique in 11 infants with CF. Results: Airway wall area increased more per unit increase in airway size, whereas airway lumen area increased less per unit increase in airway size in the CF than in the control group. Among infants with CF, a greater ratio of wall to lumen area correlated with lower airway function. In addition, lung density at relaxed (passive) FRC was lower for infants with CF than for control infants (0.38 vs. 0.43 g/ml; p < 0.02). Conclusions: Our results indicate that infants with CF have thickened airway walls, narrowed airway lumens, and air trapping, when assessed by high-resolution computed tomography, and measurements of airway structure correlated with airway function.
airway structure; high-resolution computed tomography; lung disease
The genetic risk factors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are still largely unknown. To date, genome-wide association studies (GWASs) of limited size have identified several novel risk loci for COPD at CHRNA3/CHRNA5/IREB2, HHIP and FAM13A; additional loci may be identified through larger studies. We performed a GWAS using a total of 3499 cases and 1922 control subjects from four cohorts: the Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints (ECLIPSE); the Normative Aging Study (NAS) and National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT); Bergen, Norway (GenKOLS); and the COPDGene study. Genotyping was performed on Illumina platforms with additional markers imputed using 1000 Genomes data; results were summarized using fixed-effect meta-analysis. We identified a new genome-wide significant locus on chromosome 19q13 (rs7937, OR = 0.74, P = 2.9 × 10−9). Genotyping this single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and another nearby SNP in linkage disequilibrium (rs2604894) in 2859 subjects from the family-based International COPD Genetics Network study (ICGN) demonstrated supportive evidence for association for COPD (P = 0.28 and 0.11 for rs7937 and rs2604894), pre-bronchodilator FEV1 (P = 0.08 and 0.04) and severe (GOLD 3&4) COPD (P = 0.09 and 0.017). This region includes RAB4B, EGLN2, MIA and CYP2A6, and has previously been identified in association with cigarette smoking behavior.
Because chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a heterogeneous condition, the identification of specific clinical phenotypes is key to developing more effective therapies. To explore if the persistence of systemic inflammation is associated with poor clinical outcomes in COPD we assessed patients recruited to the well-characterized ECLIPSE cohort (NCT00292552).
Methods and Findings
Six inflammatory biomarkers in peripheral blood (white blood cells (WBC) count and CRP, IL-6, IL-8, fibrinogen and TNF-α levels) were quantified in 1,755 COPD patients, 297 smokers with normal spirometry and 202 non-smoker controls that were followed-up for three years. We found that, at baseline, 30% of COPD patients did not show evidence of systemic inflammation whereas 16% had persistent systemic inflammation. Even though pulmonary abnormalities were similar in these two groups, persistently inflamed patients during follow-up had significantly increased all-cause mortality (13% vs. 2%, p<0.001) and exacerbation frequency (1.5 (1.5) vs. 0.9 (1.1) per year, p<0.001) compared to non-inflamed ones. As a descriptive study our results show associations but do not prove causality. Besides this, the inflammatory response is complex and we studied only a limited panel of biomarkers, albeit they are those investigated by the majority of previous studies and are often and easily measured in clinical practice.
Overall, these results identify a novel systemic inflammatory COPD phenotype that may be the target of specific research and treatment.
To refine the CT prediction of emphysema by comparing histology and CT for specific regions of lung. To incorporate both regional lung density measured by CT and cluster analysis of low attenuation areas for comparison with histological measurement of surface area per unit lung volume.
The histological surface area per unit lung volume was estimated for 140 samples taken from resected lung specimens of fourteen subjects. The region of the lung sampled for histology was located on the pre-operative CT scan; the regional CT median lung density and emphysematous lesion size were calculated using the X-ray attenuation values and a low attenuation cluster analysis. Linear mixed models were used to examine the relationships between histological surface area per unit lung volume and CT measures.
The median CT lung density, low attenuation cluster analysis, and the combination of both were important predictors of surface area per unit lung volume measured by histology (p < 0.0001). Akaike's information criterion showed the model incorporating both parameters provided the most accurate prediction of emphysema.
Combining CT measures of lung density and emphysematous lesion size provides a more accurate estimate of lung surface area per unit lung volume than either measure alone.
Rationale: COPD is associated with reduced life expectancy.
Objectives: To determine the association between small airway pathology and long-term survival after lung volume reduction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and the effect of corticosteroids on this pathology.
Methods: Patients with severe (GOLD-3) and very severe (GOLD-4) COPD (n = 101) were studied after lung volume reduction surgery. Respiratory symptoms, quality of life, pulmonary function, exercise tolerance, chest radiology, and corticosteroid treatment status were assessed preoperatively. The severity of luminal occlusion, wall thickening, and the presence of small airways containing lymphoid follicles were determined in resected lung tissue. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis and Cox proportional hazards models were used to determine the relationship between survival and small airway pathology. The effect of corticosteroids on this pathology was assessed by comparing treated and untreated groups.
Measurements and Main Results: The quartile of subjects with the greatest luminal occlusion, adjusted for covariates, died earlier than subjects who had the least occlusion (hazard ratio, 3.28; 95% confidence interval, 1.55–6.92; P = 0.002). There was a trend toward a reduction in the number of airways containing lymphoid follicles (P = 0.051) in those receiving corticosteroids, with a statistically significant difference between the control and oral ± inhaled corticosteroid–treated groups (P = 0.019). However, corticosteroid treatment had no effect on airway wall thickening or luminal occlusion.
Conclusions: Occlusion of the small airways by inflammatory exudates containing mucus is associated with early death in patients with severe emphysema treated by lung volume reduction surgery. Corticosteroid treatment dampens the host immune response in these airways by reducing lymphoid follicles without changing wall thickening and luminal occlusion.
premature death in COPD; airway remodeling; mucosal immune response; corticosteroids