Prevalence and correlates of pulmonary emphysema in smokers and former smokers. A densitometric study of participants in the ITALUNG trial

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We assessed with computed tomography (CT) densitometry the prevalence of emphysema in 266 (175 men and 91 women; mean age 64 ± 4 years) smokers and former smokers enrolled in the ITALUNG trial of lung cancer screening with low-dose thin-slice CT. Whole-lung volume and the relative area at -950 Hounsfield units (RA950) and mean lung attenuation (MLA) in 1 of every 10 slices (mean, 24 slices per subject) were measured. Lung volume, MLA and RA950 significantly correlated each other and with age. Average RA950 >6.8% qualifying for emphysema was present in 71 (26.6%) of 266 subjects, with a higher prevalence in men than in women (30.3% vs 19.8%; p = 0.003). Only in smokers was a weak (r = 0.18; p = 0.05) correlation between RA950 and packs/year observed. In multiple regression analysis, the variability of RA950 (R2 = 0.24) or MLA (R2 = 0.34) was significantly, but weakly explained by age, lung volume and packs/year. Other factors besides smoking may also have a significant role in the etiopathogenesis of pulmonary emphysema.

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