New test could identify smokers at risk of emphysema

Using CT scans to measure blood flow in the lungs of people who smoke may offer a way to identify which smokers are most at risk of emphysema before the disease damages and eventually destroys areas of the lungs, according to a University of Iowa study.

The study found that smokers who have very subtle signs of emphysema, but still have normal lung function, have very different blood flow patterns in their lungs compared to non-smokers and smokers without signs of emphysema.

This difference could be used to identify smokers at increased risk of emphysema and allow for early intervention. The findings appear this week in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We have developed a new tool to detect early emphysema-related changes that occur in smokers who are susceptible to the disease," said lead study author Eric Hoffman, Ph.D., UI professor of radiology, internal medicine and biomedical engineering. "Our discovery may also help researchers understand the underlying causes of this disease and help distinguish this type of emphysema from other forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This type of CT scan could even be a tool to test the effectiveness of new therapies by looking at the changes in lung blood flow."

source: University of Iowa


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The lungs of smokers and non-smokers with a CT scan imaging technique, which revealed blood flow patterns in different sections of the lung of the two cohorts.

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