We noted incidental findings on chest computed tomography (CT) imaging of expiratory central airway collapse (ECAC) in dyspneic patients after military deployment to southwest Asia (mainly Iraq and Afghanistan). We developed a standardized chest CT protocol with dynamic expiration to enhance diagnostic reliability and investigated demographic, clinical, and deployment characteristics possibly associated with ECAC.
Materials and Methods:
We calculated ECAC in 62 consecutive post-9/11 deployers with dyspnea who underwent multi-detector chest CT acquisition. ECAC was defined as ≥70% reduction in the cross-sectional tracheal area at dynamic expiration. We compared demographics (age, smoking, body mass index), comorbid conditions (gastroesophageal reflux, obstructive sleep apnea [OSA]), and clinical findings (air trapping, forced expiratory volume in 1 second percent predicted) in deployers with and without ECAC. We examined associations between ECAC and forced expiratory volume in 1 second percent predicted, air trapping, OSA, deployment duration, and blast exposure.
Among 62 consecutive deployers with persistent dyspnea, 37% had ECAC. Three had severe (>85%) collapse. Those with ECAC were older (mean age 46 vs. 40 y, P=0.02), but no other demographic or clinical characteristics were statistically different among the groups. Although not statistically significant, ECAC odds were 1.5 times higher (95% confidence interval: 0.9, 2.5) for each additional year of southwest Asia deployment. Deployers with ECAC had 1.6 times greater odds (95% confidence interval: 0.5, 4.8) of OSA.
Findings suggest that ECAC is common in symptomatic southwest Asia deployers. Chest high-resolution CT with dynamic expiration may provide an insight into the causes of dyspnea in this population, although risk factors for ECAC remain to be determined. A standardized semiquantitative approach to CT-based assessment of ECAC should improve reliable diagnosis in dyspneic patients.