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Imaging could help treat COPD patients

Wednesday 8th July 2015
Combining two imaging techniques could help treat patients with chronic lung disease. Image Credit: Thinkstock
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Using two commonly practiced imaging techniques could help treat patients with a progressive lung disease, a new study has suggested.

Researchers at the Robarts Research Institute in London, Ontario, Canada, found that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) can provide important information on the symptoms and exercise capabilities of people with mild-to-moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The progressive lung disease affects around 65 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and diagnosis often requires a lung function test where the patient exhales forcefully into a tube connected to a machine. 

Published online in the journal Radiology, the study noted the limitations of this method of diagnosis for COPD.

Study co-author Dr Grace Parraga said patients are classified based on spirometry but they may have the same air flow but different symptoms and this could mean they also have a significant variation in how much regular activity they can perform.

This test produces a figure called the forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), which may not be an accurate measurement of the whole lungs. Along with her team, Dr Parraga set out to develop a way to explain COPD symptoms and exercise capability.

In their study, they performed conventional CT and inhaled noble gas MRI, which is used to visualise the air spaces in the lungs. Out of all the participants, 116 had COPD and 80 had milder disease. 

Each undertook a lung capacity testing, filled out a quality of life questionnaire and took a six-minute walk to measure their exercise tolerance over a short period of time. 

The researchers found that patients who had mild-to-moderate COPD patients and also modestly abnormal FEV1 and MRI measurements of emphysema were more likely to be limited in terms of exercise. Both CT and MRI measurements of emphysema helped explain symptoms.

The implications of the findings are significant for patients with mild COPD and abnormal FEV1, according to Dr Parraga.

Written by James Puckle

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