HRCT Imaging of Airway Responsiveness: Effects of Anesthetics

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The noninvasive imaging method, high resolution computed tomography (HRCT), has been developed in animal models and applied to humans with obstructive lung disease for assessing regional and individual airway responsiveness. The ability to directly view airway responses during provocations such as tracheal intubation in an asthmatic could greatly enhance our understanding and treatment of airway hyperresponsiveness. HRCT uses increased kilovoltage peak (kVp) and milliamperage (mAs) settings, thin slices, high spacial frequency reconstruction algorithms, and small fields of view to resolve structures as small as 200 µm. Therefore, airways as small as 1–2 mm in diameter can be viewed and measured. HRCT is a more sensitive technique for resolving airway caliber changes than clinical or research methods of pulmonary function tests. HRCT allows direct in vivo measurement of airway responsiveness to pharmacological and physiological stress that induces bronchoconstriction or bronchodilation. Using HRCT, we are able to measure airway dilation at baseline airway tone with inhalation anesthetics, differentiate the bronchodilating properties of inhalational agents in airways with tone, assess bronchodilating agents commonly used as premedications prior to anesthesia, and measure airway heterogeneity at baseline tone and their response to a variety of stimuli. This ability of HRCT to measure airway caliber and response heterogeneity in vivo noninvasively will dramatically improve our understanding of pulmonary physiology in general and the effects of anesthetics on the airways specifically.

This revised version was published online in July 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.