Comparative evaluation of chest radiography, low-field MRI, the Shwachman-Kulczycki score and pulmonary function tests in patients with cystic fibrosis

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The aim of this study was to investigate whether the parenchymal lung damage in patients suffering from cystic fibrosis (CF) can be equivalently quantified by the Chrispin-Norman (CN) scores determined with low-field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and conventional chest radiography (CXR). Both scores were correlated with pulmonary function tests (PFT) and the Shwachman-Kulczycki method (SKM). To evaluate the comparability of MRI and CXR for different states of the disease, all scores were applied to patients divided into three age groups. Seventy-three CF patients (mean SKM score: 62 ± 8) with a median age (range) of 14 years (7-32) were included. The mean CN scores determined with both imaging methods were comparable (CXR: 12.1 ± 4.7; MRI: 12.0 ± 4.5) and showed high correlation (P < 0.05, R = 0.97). Only weak correlations were found between imaging, PFT, and SKM. Both imaging modalities revealed significantly more severe disease expression with age, while PFT and SKM failed to detect early signs of disease. We conclude that imaging of the lung in CF patients is capable of detecting subtle and early parenchymal destruction before lung function or clinical scoring is affected. Furthermore, low-field MRI revealed high consistency with chest radiography and may be used for a thorough follow-up while avoiding radiation exposure.

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