Background: The epithelial reticular basement membrane (Rbm) of the airway wall thickens in patients with asthma. However, whether the thickening parallels whole airway wall thickening, which limits airflow, is unknown. The aim of this study was to examine the correlation between the bronchial Rbm thickening and whole airway wall thickening in asthma. In addition, the association of Rbm and whole wall thickening with airflow obstruction was examined.
Methods: Forty nine patients with asthma and 18 healthy control subjects took part in the study. The Rbm thickness was measured in bronchial biopsy specimens and whole airway wall thickness was assessed with high resolution computed tomographic (HRCT) scanning after pretreatment with oral steroids for 2 weeks and inhaled β2 agonist to minimise reversible changes of the airway walls. The percentage airway wall area (WA%; defined as (wall area/total airway area) × 100) and percentage airway wall thickness (WT%; defined as [(ideal outer diameter – ideal luminal diameter)/ideal outer diameter] × 100) were determined from HRCT scans to assess whole airway wall thickness. Spirometric tests were also performed.
Results: WA% and WT% were higher in patients with asthma than in healthy subjects. Both WA% and WT% were strongly correlated with Rbm thickness. Moreover, these three indices of airway wall thickness were inversely correlated with the percentage of predicted forced expiratory volume in 1 second in patients with asthma.
Conclusions: These findings indicate that Rbm thickening parallels whole airway wall thickening which can cause irreversible airflow obstruction in patients with asthma.
- subepithelial layer thickness
- airway wall thickness
- high resolution computed tomography
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Informed consent was obtained from all subjects, and the human experimentation guidelines of the US Department of Health and Human Services and those of the Showa University Human Investigation Committee were followed.
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