Similarities in the Computed Tomography Appearance in α1-Antitrypsin Deficiency and Smoking-Related Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in a Smoking Collective

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Background: Emphysematous destruction of lung parenchyma visible in computed tomography (CT) can be attributed to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or to α1-antitrypsin deficiency (AATD). Objectives: We evaluated if visual semiquantitative phenotyping of CT data helps identifying individuals with AATD in a group of smokers with severe emphysema and airflow limitation. Method:n = 14 patients with AATD and n = 15 with COPD and a minimum of 10 pack years underwent CT, clinical assessment, and full-body plethysmography. The extent and type of emphysema as well as large and small airway changes were rated semiquantitatively for each lobe using a standardized previously published scoring system. Lastly, a final diagnosis for each patient was proposed. Results: AATD had a significantly lower mean emphysema score than COPD, with 8.9 ± 3.4 versus 11.9 ± 3.2 (p < 0.001), respectively. Within both groups, there was significantly more emphysema in the lower lobes (p < 0.05–0.001). The COPD group showed an upper- and middle-lobe predominance of emphysema distribution when compared to the AATD group (p < 0.001). Centrilobular (CLE) and panlobular (PLE) emphysema patterns showed a uniform distribution within both groups, with a CLE predominance in the upper lung and a PLE predominance in the lower lung regions. AATD and COPD both showed significantly more airway changes in lower lobes compared to upper lobes (p = 0.05–0.001), without significant differences between both groups. Conclusion: The typical emphysema distribution patterns seen on CT traditionally assigned to AATD and COPD were of little use in discriminating both entities. Also, airway changes could not contribute to a more precise differentiation. We conclude that a concise standardized phenotyping-driven approach to chest CT in emphysema is not sufficient to identify patients with AATD in a cohort of smokers with advanced emphysema.

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