Computing COPD Diagnosis in a New Way

CT scans for lung cancer may be new tool for detecting COPD

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Men (and women) who are or have been heavy smokers usually have a heavy chance of developing some sort of often deadly lung disease. Research suggests that a cancer detection screening method may be the best way to ID another killer.

Computed tomography (CT) scans used to screen for lung cancer have been shown to be effective in detecting chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

"Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for help in kicking the habit."

Onno M. Mets, M.D., of the University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands, and colleagues wanted to know if low-dose CT scans could assist in the diagnosis of COPD.

CT scans were performed on 1,140 men between July 2007 and September 2008. Participants had inspiratory (inhaling air) and expiratory (exhaling air) CT scans on the same day they received other pulmonary function tests. These tests served as a standard for determining the accuracy of the CT scans.

Participants were an average of 62.5 years old, and data was available regarding respiratory symptoms 1,085 of the men had reported. Some of the men had been diagnosed with emphysema and bronchitis.

The pulmonary function tests revealed 437 cases of COPD.

The diagnostic model researchers used was based on five factors - CT emphysema, CT air trapping (retaining air abnormally), BMI (body mass index), pack-years (number of packs smoked a day multiplied by number of years person smoked) and smoking status.

This model found that 274 men had COPD.

The authors write that these findings still need to be confirmed. But once validated, the authors say this study  suggests it may be reasonable to add an expiratory to the initial (baseline) inspiratory CT scans to improve the overall accuracy of diagnosing COPD. They note the additional radiation exposure associated with these tests is limited.

The authors add that CT scanning is not proposed as a primary screening tool for COPD because pulmonary function testing remains the preferred method.

This research is published in October 26, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 7, 2011
Last Updated:
November 8, 2011