Computed tomography (CT) measure of emphysema proved to be a “strong independent mortality predictor,” according to researchers in Norway, who examined the relationships between degree of emphysema and mortality and between airway wall thickness and mortality.

By following a community-based cohort of 947 ever-smokers with and without COPD for eight years, researchers discovered that emphysema was a significant predictor of all cause-specific mortalities, with increasing emphysema levels predicting shorter survival. Though not an independent predictor of mortality, increased airway wall thickness reduced survival time in patients with more severe emphysema. These associations are independent of gender, age, smoking history, lung function and BMI, according to researchers.

All subjects underwent spirometry and CT scanning, with the degree of emphysema categorized as low, medium, or high based on the percent of low attenuation areas on CT.

“To our knowledge this is the first study to examine the predictive ability of emphysema on mortality in a community based sample, and also the first study to examine the association between airway wall thickness and mortality,” the authors wrote. “Given the magnitude of CT examinations performed worldwide each year, predictive effects of such measures on mortality risks are of substantial importance. The fact that our study comprised also subjects without COPD and that it focused on several mortality outcomes, makes the results from this study relevant across medical disciplines.”

The published study is available here.