Semin Respir Crit Care Med. 2022 Feb 24. doi: 10.1055/s-0042-1743289. Online ahead of print.
Asthma is a heterogeneous disease characterized by chronic airway inflammation that affects more than 300 million people worldwide. Clinically, asthma has a widely variable presentation and is defined based on a history of respiratory symptoms alongside airflow limitation. Imaging is not needed to confirm a diagnosis of asthma, and thus the use of imaging in asthma has historically been limited to excluding alternative diagnoses. However, significant advances continue to be made in novel imaging methodologies, which have been increasingly used to better understand respiratory impairment in asthma. As a disease primarily impacting the airways, asthma is best understood by imaging methods with the ability to elucidate airway impairment. Techniques such as computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging with gaseous contrast agents, and positron emission tomography enable assessment of the small airways. Others, such as optical coherence tomography and endobronchial ultrasound enable high-resolution imaging of the large airways accessible to bronchoscopy. These imaging techniques are providing new insights in the pathophysiology and treatments of asthma and are poised to impact the clinical management of asthma.