CT scan as a monitoring tool for asthma



When we talk about computer tomography (CT), we usually think about cancer and detecting tumors. However, this imaging technique which consists of a series of X-rays, can potentially be used to monitor the progression of asthma.

Currently, there are no visual biomarkers sensitive enough to follow how asthma progresses or responds to treatment. Conventional X-rays images cannot detect small structural changes in the respiratory tract of patients with severe asthma. However, scientists at the University of Leicester (UK) may have found something promising using CT scanning technology.

According to study leader Professor Brightling, a Wellcome Trust Senior Clinical Fellow and Honorary Consultant at the Institute for Lung Health

“Currently, there is paucity of markers that can be used to monitor asthma progression, response to treatment and to identify patients who will have recurrent asthma attacks and develop persistent airflow obstruction, features particularly relevant to severe asthma.”

The researchers report that CT scanning may be able to detect structural changes in the airways and lungs of asthma patients. These changes include reduction in the wall thickness of the airways indicative of worsening of lung functions and airway inflammation. The changes in the thickness of the walls may be a potential asthma biomarker and measuring this thickness a useful tool in monitoring the disease as it worsens or responds to treatment

This CT-based monitoring tool has the advantage of being non-invasive and objective. Professor Brightling adds:

“Ability to objectively quantify different structural changes in asthma using CT may assist in differentiating various disease sub-types and help deliver personalised healthcare.”

Asthma is on the rise. According to another researcher Dr Sumit Gupta

“Asthma is a major health problem affecting 300 million people worldwide. Approximately half a million people in UK suffer from severe asthma and are, as a consequence, at increased risk of asthma attacks, hospitalisation and death and often have severely impaired quality of life. Structural changes that occur in airways of asthmatic individuals remain difficult to quantify and monitor. Computed tomography (CT) scans have now emerged as a non-invasive research tool to assess these airway structural changes.”

However, before CT scans should be routinely used for asthma monitoring, the health risks of radiation exposure should be taken into consideration. It is hoped that newer models of CT scanners which work faster and uses less radiation will be able to benefit asthma patients as a monitoring tool.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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