Health Team

CT scans being used to diagnose COPD

Posted October 25, 2011
Updated October 28, 2011

CT scans can help identify breathing difficulties, Dutch researchers found.

The medical risks for current or even former smokers have always been high, with diseases like lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease leading the way.

And while doctors have long used CT scans to help diagnose cases of lung cancer, new research shows that those same scans can be used to better, and more quickly, diagnose COPD.

Dutch researchers studied CT scans and function tests on more than a thousand current or former smokers in hopes of finding a link to help them scan and diagnose COPD.

Inhale images can reveal the evidence of emphysema and damaged tissue while exhale images can measure airway disease. The findings allowed doctors to be confident when diagnosing COPD in the majority of the scans.

One test can show two lung conditions One test can show two lung conditions

“Based on the CT scan we were reasonably accurate for the diagnoses of COPD,” Dr. Pim A. de Jong said of the study. “We could detect almost two thirds of the COPD patients in our population based on the CT findings.”

For Pieter Schoegje, a smoker for 45 years, a CT scan helped diagnose his lung cancer and COPD.

Schoegje was successfully treated for his lung cancer and is taking medication for the COPD. He’s also stopped smoking. He said he wants to live as long as his uncle.

“I look forward to being 90 years old,” Schoegje said.

De Jong said early detection of lung cancer and COPD goes a long way in making sure patients can get the correct treatment. With doctors being able to use CT scans for both, the job of early detection becomes much easier.

"When you catch the disease early and you give up smoking at an early stage you will prevent the symptomatic period of the disease,” he said.

Patients with COPD suffer from a cough, fatigue, respiratory infections, shortness of breath and wheezing. There is no cure, however, there are medications that can relieve symptoms and keep the disease from getting worse.


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