Emphysema Predicts Hospitalisation and Incident Airflow Obstruction among Older Smokers: A Prospective Cohort Study

McAllister, David A.; Ahmed, Firas S.; Austin, John H. M.; Henschke, Claudia I.; Keller, Brad M.; Lemeshow, Adina R.; Reeves, Anthony P.; Mesia-Vela, Sonia; Pearson, Gregory D. N.; Shiau, Maria C.; Schwartz, Joseph E.; Yankelevitz, David F.; Barr, R. Graham


Emphysema on CT is common in older smokers. We hypothesised that emphysema on CT predicts acute episodes of care for chronic lower respiratory disease among older smokers.

Materials and Methods

Participants in a lung cancer screening study age ≥60 years were recruited into a prospective cohort study in 2001–02. Two radiologists independently visually assessed the severity of emphysema as absent, mild, moderate or severe. Percent emphysema was defined as the proportion of voxels ≤ −910 Hounsfield Units. Participants completed a median of 5 visits over a median of 6 years of follow-up. The primary outcome was hospitalization, emergency room or urgent office visit for chronic lower respiratory disease. Spirometry was performed following ATS/ERS guidelines. Airflow obstruction was defined as FEV1/FVC ratio <0.70 and FEV1<80% predicted.


Of 521 participants, 4% had moderate or severe emphysema, which was associated with acute episodes of care (rate ratio 1.89; 95% CI: 1.01–3.52) adjusting for age, sex and race/ethnicity, as was percent emphysema, with similar associations for hospitalisation. Emphysema on visual assessment also predicted incident airflow obstruction (HR 5.14; 95% CI 2.19–21.1).


Visually assessed emphysema and percent emphysema on CT predicted acute episodes of care for chronic lower respiratory disease, with the former predicting incident airflow obstruction among older smokers.


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Academic Units
Institute of Human Nutrition
Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health
Public Library of Science
Published Here
July 24, 2016