Airway dimensions in fatal asthma and fatal COPD: overlap in older patients.COPD. 2013 Jun; 10(3):348-56.COPD
In some patients with chronic asthma clinical and physiological similarities with COPD may exist, such as partial reversibility to bronchodilators and persistent expiratory airflow obstruction. However, pathological data comparing both diseases in patients of similar age and disease severity are scarce. We compared large and small airway dimensions in 12 younger (mean age 32 yrs) and 15 older (mean age 65 yrs) non-smoker adult fatal asthma patients with 14 chronic smokers with severe, fatal COPD (mean age 71 yrs). Using H&E, Movat pentachrome staining and image analysis, we quantified large airway basement membrane (BM) thickness (μm), submucosal gland area and large and small airway inner wall, smooth muscle and outer wall areas. Areas were normalized by BM perimeter (μm(2)/μm). Younger adult fatal asthma patients had thicker BM, smooth muscle, and outer wall areas in both small and large airways when compared to COPD patients. In older asthmatics there was an overlap in BM thickness and airway structure in small airways. Inner wall layer in large and small airway level and submucosal gland areas were similar among groups. In conclusion, there are airway histological structural similarities between fatal asthma and fatal COPD. Older fatal asthmatics present overlapping airway structural features with younger adult fatal asthmatics and severe COPD patients. Our data contributes to a better understanding of asthma pathology in the elderly.