In a previous study, we demonstrated that asthma patients with signs of emphysema on quantitative computed tomography (CT) fulfill the diagnosis of asthma-COPD overlap syndrome (ACOS). However, quantitative CT measurements of emphysema are not routinely available for patients with chronic airway disease, which limits their application. Spirometry was a widely used examination tool in clinical settings and shows emphysema as a sharp angle in the maximum expiratory flow volume (MEFV) curve, called the “angle of collapse (AC)”. The aim of this study was to investigate the value of the AC in the diagnosis of emphysema and ACOS.
This study included 716 participants: 151 asthma patients, 173 COPD patients, and 392 normal control subjects. All the participants underwent pulmonary function tests. COPD and asthma patients also underwent quantitative CT measurements of emphysema. The AC was measured using computer models based on Matlab software. The value of the AC in the diagnosis of emphysema and ACOS was evaluated using receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis.
The AC of COPD patients was significantly lower than that of asthma patients and control subjects. The AC was significantly negatively correlated with emphysema index (EI; r=−0.666, P<0.001), and patients with high EI had a lower AC than those with low EI. The ROC curve analysis showed that the AC had higher diagnostic efficiency for high EI (area under the curve =0.876) than did other spirometry parameters. In asthma patients, using the AC ≤137° as a surrogate criterion for the diagnosis of ACOS, the sensitivity and specificity were 62.5% and 89.1%, respectively.