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According to a recent University of Iowa study, a new testing method may help physicians identify smokers who are at the greatest risk of developing emphysema.
Eric Hoffman, professor of radiology, internal medicine and biomedical engineering at the university and lead author of the study, found that measuring blood flow patterns in the lungs utilizing a multidetector row CT (MDCT) scan may allow doctors to identify subtle signs of emphysema in patients who still have normal lung function.
"Our discovery may also help researchers understand the underlying causes of this disease and help distinguish this type of emphysema from other forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," said Hoffman."
"This type of CT scan could even be a tool to test the effectiveness of new therapies by looking at the changes in lung blood flow," he added.
In the study, the investigators used the imaging equipment to measure blood flow patterns in 24 smokers and 17 non-smokers. While all the patients had normal lung function, a total of 12 of those in the smoking group showed early signs of emphysema. The researchers found that the new test correctly identified all 12 individuals with disrupted patterns of blood flow in the lungs.
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