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Radiology. 1992 Mar;182(3):817-21.

High-resolution CT diagnosis of emphysema in symptomatic patients with normal chest radiographs and isolated low diffusing capacity.

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Department of Radiology, University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco 94143-0628.


To determine the prevalence of "nonobstructive" (impairment of gas transfer) emphysema in a select population of smokers with dyspnea, a retrospective study of patients with emphysema evident at high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) was undertaken. Four hundred seventy HRCT studies were reviewed. In 47 cases, centrilobular emphysema was the dominant or sole parenchymal abnormality. Concomitant chest radiographs were available in 41 of these cases; 16 of the 41 lacked radiographic findings of emphysema. Among these 16 patients, pulmonary function testing revealed 10 to have normal flow rates (ratio of forced expiratory volume in 1 second to forced vital capacity and forced expiratory volume in 1 second greater than 80% predicted) and impaired gas transfer (single-breath carbon monoxide diffusing capacity [DLCOSB] less than 80% predicted). With the exclusion of one patient with congestive heart failure from the group of 10, the severity of emphysema at HRCT correlated inversely with DLCOSB (r = -.643). These results indicate that HRCT allows detection of emphysema in symptomatic patients when chest radiographs and pulmonary function tests are nondiagnostic.

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