Emphysema Could Increase Risk of Death In Certain Groups

Findings akin to emphysema on computed tomography (CT) scans yielded a higher risk of mortality even among those without chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a recent study.

“Low lung function is known to predict mortality in the general population, but the prognostic significance of emphysema on CT in persons without chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is uncertain,” said the authors of the study.

Subcutaneous Emphysema After Thoracoscopy

Emphysematous Pyelitis

For the study, researchers evaluated 2965 participants (ages 45 to 84 years) who did not display airflow obstruction on spirometry.

Researchers defined the emphysema-like lung function based on the amount of lung voxels with attenuations under -950 Hounsfield units on cardiac CT. They also adjusted for the total imaged lung voxels number.

The study showed that out of the participants who never smoked (50.9%), 186 deaths occurred over a median of 6.2 years.

Investigators discovered that the association between emphysema-like lung function and mortality was more prevalent among participants without airflow obstruction, or COPD, specifically among smokers.

The complete study was published in the December issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

-Michelle Canales


Oelsner EC, Hoffman EA, Folsom AR. Association between emphysema-like lung on cardiac computed tomography and mortality in persons without airflow obstruction: a cohort study. Ann Intern Med. 2014 December [epub ahead of print] doi: 10.7326/M13-2570.