Children with severe asthma have substantial structural airway changes on computed tomography

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Background In adults with severe asthma (SA) bronchial wall thickening, bronchiectasis and low attenuation regions (LAR) have been described on chest computed tomography (CT) scans. The extent to which these structural abnormalities are present in children with SA is largely unknown. Our aim was to study the presence and extent of airway abnormalities on chest CT of children with SA. Methods 161 inspiratory and expiratory CT scans, either spirometer-controlled or technician-controlled, obtained in 131 children with SA (mean±SD age 11.0±3.8 years) were collected retrospectively. Inspiratory scans were analysed manually using a semi-quantitative score and automatically using LungQ (v2.1.0.1; Thirona B.V., Nijmegen, the Netherlands). LungQ segments the bronchial tree, identifies the generation for each bronchus–artery (BA) pair and measures the following BA dimensions: outer bronchial wall diameter (Bout), adjacent artery diameter (A) and bronchial wall thickness (Bwt). Bronchiectasis was defined as Bout/A ⩾1.1, bronchial wall thickening as Bwt/A ⩾0.14. LAR, reflecting small airways disease (SAD), was measured automatically on inspiratory and expiratory scans and manually on expiratory scans. Functional SAD was defined as FEF25–75 and/or FEF75 z-scores <−1.645. Results are shown as median and interquartile range. Results Bronchiectasis was present on 95.8% and bronchial wall thickening on all CTs using the automated method. Bronchiectasis was present on 28% and bronchial wall thickening on 88.8% of the CTs using the manual semi-quantitative analysis. The percentage of BA pairs defined as bronchiectasis was 24.62% (12.7–39.3%) and bronchial wall thickening was 41.7% (24.0–79.8%) per CT using the automated method. LAR was observed on all CTs using the automatic analysis and on 82.9% using the manual semi-quantitative analysis. Patients with LAR or functional SAD had more thickened bronchi than patients without. Conclusion Despite a large discrepancy between the automated and the manual semi-quantitative analysis, bronchiectasis and bronchial wall thickening are present on most CT scans of children with SA. SAD is related to bronchial wall thickening.

Original languageEnglish
Article number00121-2023
JournalERJ Open Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2024

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