How Are CT Scans Used in Detecting COPD?

To diagnose an individual with COPD, a potential patient must undergo a simple breathing test called spirometry. However, in some cases, one’s healthcare provider will perform medical imaging, a form of testing that result in a visual depiction of the patient’s lungs. In such cases, an imaging test, such as chest x-ray, CT scan, or an ECG may be used to identify other potential causes of COPD symptoms and confirm one’s diagnosis.

Computerized tomography scan, or CT scan, is a form of imaging that takes detailed pictures of the lungs. Though similar in function to an X-ray, a CT scan can take a number of smaller pictures whereas an X-ray can only take larger photos. Consequently, the CT scan is the most sensitive and accurate option in detecting and measuring emphysema. A CT scan can pick up characteristics that a normal X-ray can miss like specific damage to the lungs directly caused by emphysema, small lung nodules, or even small lung cancers. Additionally, a high resolution CT scan is also excellent at detecting and determining the severity of bronchiectasis. another lung disease that falls under the scope of COPD. In bronchiectasis, the lung’s bronchial tubes are damaged and expanded. Thickening of the bronchial walls can also be seen with the CT scan. This helps determine how much chronic bronchitis is present in the lungs.

The COPD Foundation has been made aware of a study at the National Institutes of Health that is designed to determine whether low does CT scans can be as effective as standard CT scans. If you are an individual currently diagnosed with COPD and interested in learning more, please call 1-877-NIH-LUNG, and press option #3. Information related to travel reimbursement can be obtained from the study coordinators.


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