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      Quantitative computed tomography measurements of emphysema for diagnosing asthma-chronic obstructive pulmonary disease overlap syndrome

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          The diagnostic criteria of asthma–COPD overlap syndrome (ACOS) are controversial. Emphysema is characteristic of COPD and usually does not exist in typical asthma patients. Emphysema in patients with asthma suggests the coexistence of COPD. Quantitative computed tomography (CT) allows repeated evaluation of emphysema noninvasively. We investigated the value of quantitative CT measurements of emphysema in the diagnosis of ACOS.


          This study included 404 participants; 151 asthma patients, 125 COPD patients, and 128 normal control subjects. All the participants underwent pulmonary function tests and a high-resolution CT scan. Emphysema measurements were taken with an Airway Inspector software. The asthma patients were divided into high and low emphysema index (EI) groups based on the percentage of low attenuation areas less than −950 Hounsfield units. The characteristics of asthma patients with high EI were compared with those having low EI or COPD.


          The normal value of percentage of low attenuation areas less than −950 Hounsfield units in Chinese aged >40 years was 2.79%±2.37%. COPD patients indicated more severe emphysema and more upper-zone-predominant distribution of emphysema than asthma patients or controls. Thirty-two (21.2%) of the 151 asthma patients had high EI. Compared with asthma patients with low EI, those with high EI were significantly older, more likely to be male, had more pack-years of smoking, had more upper-zone-predominant distribution of emphysema, and had greater airflow limitation. There were no significant differences in sex ratios, pack-years of smoking, airflow limitation, or emphysema distribution between asthma patients with high EI and COPD patients. A greater number of acute exacerbations were seen in asthma patients with high EI compared with those with low EI or COPD.


          Asthma patients with high EI fulfill the features of ACOS, as described in the Global Initiative for Asthma and Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease guidelines. Quantitative CT measurements of emphysema may help in diagnosing ACOS.

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          Most cited references 36

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          The pathology of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

          The pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is based on the innate and adaptive inflammatory immune response to the inhalation of toxic particles and gases. Although tobacco smoking is the primary cause of this inhalation injury, many other environmental and occupational exposures contribute to the pathology of COPD. The immune inflammatory changes associated with COPD are linked to a tissue-repair and -remodeling process that increases mucus production and causes emphysematous destruction of the gas-exchanging surface of the lung. The common form of emphysema observed in smokers begins in the respiratory bronchioles near the thickened and narrowed small bronchioles that become the major site of obstruction in COPD. The mechanism(s) that allow small airways to thicken in such close proximity to lung tissue undergoing emphysematous destruction remains a puzzle that needs to be solved.
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            Global strategy for asthma management and prevention

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              Global strategy for the diagnosis, management and prevention of COPD


                Author and article information

                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                International Journal of COPD
                International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
                Dove Medical Press
                06 May 2016
                : 11
                : 953-961
                Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Qilu Hospital, Shandong University, Jinan, People’s Republic of China
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Wei Xiao, Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Qilu Hospital, Shandong University, 107 Wenhua West Road, Jinan 250012, People’s Republic of China, Tel +86 531 8216 6294, Email xiaowei4226@
                © 2016 Xie et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

                The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

                Original Research

                Respiratory medicine

                overlap syndrome, copd, asthma, quantitative ct, emphysema


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