Background: Emphysema and small airway disease both contribute to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a disease characterised by accelerated decline in lung function. The association between the extent of emphysema in male current and former smokers and lung function decline was investigated. Methods: Current and former heavy smokers participating in a lung cancer screening trial were recruited to the study and all underwent CT. Spirometry was performed at baseline and at 3-year follow-up. The 15th percentile (Perc15) was used to assess the severity of emphysema. Results: 2085 men of mean age 59.8 years participated in the study. Mean (SD) baseline Perc15 was -934.9 (19.5) HU. A lower Perc15 value correlated with a lower forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) at baseline (r=0.12, p<0.001). Linear mixed model analysis showed that a lower Perc15 was significantly related to a greater decline in FEV1 after follow-up (p<0.001). Participants without baseline airway obstruction who developed it after follow-up had significantly lower mean (SD) Perc15 values at baseline than those who did not develop obstruction (-934.2 (17.1) HU vs -930.2 (19.7) HU, p<0.001). Conclusion: Greater baseline severity of CT-detected emphysema is related to lower baseline lung function and greater rates of lung function decline, even in those without airway obstruction. CT-detected emphysema aids in identifying non-obstructed male smokers who will develop airflow obstruction.

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Mohamed Hoesein, F.A.A, de Hoop, B, Zanen, P, Gietema, H.A, Kruitwagen, C.L.J.J, van Ginneken, B, … Lammers, J.-W.J. (2011). CT-quantified emphysema in male heavy smokers: Association with lung function decline. Thorax: an international journal of respiratory medicine, 66(9), 782–787. doi:10.1136/thx.2010.145995