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Background: Longitudinal progression to irreversible airflow limitation occurs in approximately 10% of patients with asthma, but it is difficult to identify patients who are at risk for this transition.
Purpose: To investigate 6-year longitudinal changes in hyperpolarized helium 3 (3He) MRI ventilation defects in study participants with mild-to-moderate asthma and identify predictors of longitudinal changes in postbronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) reversibility
Materials and Methods: Spirometry and hyperpolarized 3He MRI were evaluated in participants with mild-to-moderate asthma in two prospectively planned visits approximately 6 years apart. Participants underwent methacholine challenge at baseline (January 2010 to April 2011) and pre- and postbronchodilator evaluations at follow-up (November 2016 to June 2017). FEV1 and MRI ventilation defects, quantified as ventilation defect volume (VDV), were compared between visits by using paired t tests. Participants were dichotomized by postbronchodilator change in FEV1 at follow-up, and differences between reversible and not-reversible groups were determined by using unpaired t tests. Multivariable models were generated to explain postbronchodilator FEV1 reversibility at follow-up.
Results: Eleven participants with asthma (mean age, 42 years ± 9 [standard deviation]; seven men) were evaluated at baseline and after mean 78 months ± 7. Medications, exacerbations, FEV1 (76% predicted vs 76% predicted; P = .91), and VDV (240 mL vs 250 mL; P = .92) were not different between visits. In eight of 11 participants (73%), MRI ventilation defects at baseline were at the same location in the lung at follow-up MRI. In the remaining three participants (27%), MRI ventilation defects worsened at the same lung locations as depicted at baseline methacholine-induced ventilation. At follow-up, postbronchodilator FEV1 was not reversible in six of 11 participants; the concentration of methacholine to decrease FEV1 by 20% (PC20) was greater in FEV1-irreversible participants at follow-up (P = .01). In a multivariable model, baseline MRI VDV helped to predict postbronchodilator reversibility at follow-up (R 2 = 0.80; P < .01), but PC20, age, and FEV1 did not (R 2 = 0.63; P = .15).
Conclusion: MRI-derived, spatially persistent ventilation defects predict postbronchodilator reversibility 78 months ± 7 later for participants with mild-to-moderate asthma in whom there were no changes in lung function, medication, or exacerbations.
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