Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Original article
Per cent emphysema is associated with respiratory and lung cancer mortality in the general population: a cohort study
  1. Elizabeth C Oelsner1,2,
  2. J Jeffrey Carr3,
  3. Paul L Enright4,
  4. Eric A Hoffman5,
  5. Aaron R Folsom6,
  6. Steven M Kawut7,
  7. Richard A Kronmal8,
  8. David J Lederer1,
  9. Joao A C Lima9,
  10. Gina S Lovasi2,
  11. Benjamin M Smith1,10,
  12. Steven J Shea1,2,
  13. R Graham Barr1,2
  1. 1Department of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York, USA
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, New York, New York, USA
  3. 3Department of Radiology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
  4. 4Department of Medicine, University of Arizona, Tuscon, Arizona, USA
  5. 5Department of Radiology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
  6. 6Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
  7. 7Department of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  8. 8Collaborative Health Studies Coordinating Center, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
  9. 9Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  10. 10Respiratory Division, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Elizabeth C Oelsner, Department of Medicine, Columbia University, 622 West 168th Street, PH 9E-105, New York, NY 10032, USA; Eco7{at}


Background Emphysema on CT is a risk factor for all-cause mortality in persons with and without airflow obstruction; however, causes of death associated with emphysema remain uncertain, particularly in the general population.

Aims To test associations between quantitatively assessed emphysema on CT and cause of death in persons with and without a substantial smoking history.

Methods The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis recruited 6814 participants, aged 45–84 years and without clinical cardiovascular disease, in 2000–2002. Per cent emphysema was defined on cardiac CT as per cent of lung voxels less than −950 Hounsfield units; emphysema on CT was defined as per cent emphysema above the upper limit of normal. Cause of death was classified by administrative codes. Proportional-hazards models were adjusted for age, race/ethnicity, gender, body mass index, smoking status, pack-years, coronary artery calcium, site and education. Additional adjustment for lung function was made in a subset with spirometry from 2004 to 2006.

Results There were 1091 deaths over 12 years median follow-up. Emphysema on CT was strongly associated with increased mortality due to respiratory diseases (adjusted HR 2.94, 95% CI 1.68 to 5.15), particularly chronic lower respiratory diseases (adjusted HR 9.54, 95% CI 4.70 to 19.35), and lung cancer (adjusted HR 1.84, 95% CI 1.09 to 3.12), but not cardiovascular disease. Associations persisted among participants with fewer than 10 pack-years and those without physician-diagnosed respiratory disease, and were similar after adjustment for airflow measures and in persons without airflow limitation.

Conclusions Quantitatively assessed emphysema on CT is associated with greater respiratory disease and lung cancer mortality, even among persons without traditional risk factors.

  • Emphysema
  • COPD epidemiology
  • Lung Cancer
  • Imaging/CT MRI etc

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles