Increased regional ventilation as early imaging marker for future disease progression of interstitial lung disease: a feasibility study

S. Scharm, C. Schaefer-Prokop, M. Willmann, J. Vogel-Claussen, L. Knudsen, D. Jonigk, J. Fuge, T. Welte, F. Wacker, A. Prasse and H. Shin

European Radiology 2022;32:6046-6057.

DOI PMID Cited by ~5



Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a disease with a poor prognosis and a highly variable course. Pathologically increased ventilation--accessible by functional CT--is discussed as a potential predecessor of lung fibrosis. The purpose of this feasibility study was to investigate whether increased regional ventilation at baseline CT and morphological changes in the follow-up CT suggestive for fibrosis indeed occur in spatial correspondence.


In this retrospective study, CT scans were performed at two time points between September 2016 and November 2020. Baseline ventilation was divided into four categories ranging from low, normal to moderately, and severely increased (C1-C4). Correlation between baseline ventilation and volume and density change at follow-up was investigated in corresponding voxels. The significance of the difference of density and volume change per ventilation category was assessed using paired t-tests with a significance level of p <= 0.05. The analysis was performed separately for normal (NAA) and high attenuation areas (HAA).


The study group consisted of 41 patients (73 +- 10 years, 36 men). In both NAA and HAA, significant increases of density and loss of volume were seen in areas of severely increased ventilation (C4) at baseline compared to areas of normal ventilation (C2, p < 0.001). In HAA, morphological changes were more heterogeneous compared to NAA.


Functional CT assessing the extent and distribution of lung parenchyma with pathologically increased ventilation may serve as an imaging marker to prospectively identify lung parenchyma at risk for developing fibrosis.

Key Points

  • Voxelwise correlation of serial CT scans suggests spatial correspondence between increased ventilation at baseline and structural changes at follow-up.

  • Regional assessment of pathologically increased ventilation at baseline has the potential to prospectively identify tissue at risk for developing fibrosis.

  • Presence and extent of pathologically increased ventilation may serve as an early imaging marker of disease activity.