OBJECTIVE: Research on computed tomography (CT) bronchial parameter measurements shows that there are conflicting results on the values for bronchial parameters in the never-smoking, smoking, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) populations. This review assesses the current CT methods for obtaining bronchial wall parameters and their comparison between populations.
METHODS: A systematic review of MEDLINE and Embase was conducted following PRISMA guidelines (last search date 25th October 2021). Methodology data was collected and summarised. Values of percentage wall area (WA%), wall thickness (WT), summary airway measure (Pi10), and luminal area (Ai) were pooled and compared between populations.
RESULTS: A total of 169 articles were included for methodologic review; 66 of these were included for meta-analysis. Most measurements were obtained from multiplanar reconstructions of segmented airways (93 of 169 articles), using various tools and algorithms; third generation airways in the upper and lower lobes were most frequently studied. COPD (12,746) and smoking (15,092) populations were largest across studies and mostly consisted of men (median 64.4%, IQR 61.5 - 66.1%). There were significant differences between populations; the largest WA% was found in COPD (mean SD 62.93 ± 7.41%, n = 6,045), and the asthma population had the largest Pi10 (4.03 ± 0.27 mm, n = 442). Ai normalised to body surface area (Ai/BSA) (12.46 ± 4 mm2, n = 134) was largest in the never-smoking population.
CONCLUSIONS: Studies on CT-derived bronchial parameter measurements are heterogenous in methodology and population, resulting in challenges to compare outcomes between studies. Significant differences between populations exist for several parameters, most notably in the wall area percentage; however, there is a large overlap in their ranges.
KEY POINTS: • Diverse methodology in measuring airways contributes to overlap in ranges of bronchial parameters among the never-smoking, smoking, COPD, and asthma populations. • The combined number of never-smoking participants in studies is low, limiting insight into this population and the impact of participant characteristics on bronchial parameters. • Wall area percent of the right upper lobe apical segment is the most studied (87 articles) and differentiates all except smoking vs asthma populations.