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Bronchial thermoplasty (BT) is a treatment for moderate-to-severe asthma, which generally improves quality-of-life scores but not conventional measures of lung function. Newer methodologies have begun to demonstrate the underlying physiological changes and elucidate the mechanism of action. We postulated that systematic, computed tomography (CT)-based assessment of the response of individual airways to BT is feasible, and our aim was to determine the distribution of these responses and the relationship with airway size. Twenty patients meeting the European Respiratory Society/American Thoracic Society (ERS/ATS) definition of severe asthma underwent BT and assessment including CT, Asthma Control Questionnaire (ACQ), and spirometry. Treatment was structured so that the left and right lungs are treated sequentially with a midtreatment assessment providing an internal control. Pairs of CT scans were analyzed using a new semiautomatic processing algorithm that matched individual segmented airways for quantitative comparison. Cross-sectional airway lumen area from matched airway pairs in treated lungs increased on average by 6.4% after BT (P < 0.02) but showed no change in the untreated lung. Matched airway length was also unchanged. Breakdown by airway size showed amplified response in more distal airways, with the smallest quintile of measured airways dilating by 13.2% (P < 0.001). ACQ improved from 3.5 ± 0.9 to 1.9 ± 1.2 (P < 0.001). These data show that the response to BT in individual airways can be assessed by CT and that dilation is heterogeneous and predominant in distal compared with proximal airways. A CT-based approach may further our understanding of the physiological changes in BT and aid in the development of refined and personalized versions of the therapy. NEW & NOTEWORTHY CT scanning was used to evaluate the response of individual airways in patients undergoing bronchial thermoplasty. Airways dilated after treatment by 6.4% on average with substantial heterogeneity and a greater response in the most distal airways measured.
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Unravelling a clinical paradox: why does bronchial thermoplasty work in asthma and how can we improve patient outcomes?
1/01/20 → 31/12/24