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Method of imaging lungs may help COPD, cancer treatment

The 3D images show oxygen and carbon dioxide transport in the lungs, potentially allowing doctors to better diagnose health problems.

By Stephen Feller
Researchers mapped oxygen and carbon dioxide treatment for a healthy person, left, and a person with asthma. The top images show regional oxygen transport and the bottom images show regional carbon dioxide transport. Photo by Aarhus University
Researchers mapped oxygen and carbon dioxide treatment for a healthy person, left, and a person with asthma. The top images show regional oxygen transport and the bottom images show regional carbon dioxide transport. Photo by Aarhus University

AARHUS, Denmark, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Researchers in Denmark developed a method of creating 3D images of the lungs in action that show oxygen and carbon dioxide transport, which they say could help doctors make surgical and treatment decisions for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, as well as cancer, asthma and other conditions.

Understanding the most crucial parts of a patient's lungs, and identifying healthy and sick parts of them, has the potential to allow for more specific diagnosis and better prediction of treatment outcomes, researchers at Aarhus University wrote in a study detailing the imaging method published in Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology.

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"If we take cancer patients with a tumor in the lung, it will be easier to predict the consequences of removing part of the lung by surgery," said Troels Johansen, a researcher at Aarhus University, in a press release. "It will also be easier for doctors to determine the COPD patients who will benefit from an operation and those who will not. We also believe that the new model will come to contribute with knowledge that can help patients in intensive care who are on a respirator."

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The researchers developed an algorithm to generate regional gas maps of the lungs using values of ventilation and perfusion, showing the method could reasonably estimate lung function in one healthy and one asthmatic person after bronchoprovocation, test that measures lung function used to diagnose the condition.

There is no method of directly measuring gas transport in the lungs, according to the study, however the images were confirmed using other methods of calculating lung function.

"Gas transfer maps offer an intuitive display of physiologically relevant lung function at a regional level, the potential for an improved understanding of pulmonary gas exchange in health and disease, and potentially a presurgical evaluation tool," the researchers wrote in the study.

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