AirQuant generates measures of intersegmental tapering and segmental tortuosity which associates with mortality in IPF independent of established measures of disease severity.
Objectives The study examined whether quantified airway metrics associate with mortality in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Methods In an observational cohort study (n = 90) of IPF patients from Ege University Hospital, an airway analysis tool AirQuant calculated median airway intersegmental tapering and segmental tortuosity across the 2nd to 6th airway generations. Intersegmental tapering measures the difference in median diameter between adjacent airway segments. Tortuosity evaluates the ratio of measured segmental length against direct end-to-end segmental length. Univariable linear regression analyses examined relationships between AirQuant variables, clinical variables, and lung function tests. Univariable and multivariable Cox proportional hazards models estimated mortality risk with the latter adjusted for patient age, gender, smoking status, antifibrotic use, CT usual interstitial pneumonia (UIP) pattern, and either forced vital capacity (FVC) or diffusion capacity of carbon monoxide (DLco) if obtained within 3 months of the CT. Results No significant collinearity existed between AirQuant variables and clinical or functional variables. On univariable Cox analyses, male gender, smoking history, no antifibrotic use, reduced DLco, reduced intersegmental tapering, and increased segmental tortuosity associated with increased risk of death. On multivariable Cox analyses (adjusted using FVC), intersegmental tapering (hazard ratio (HR) = 0.75, 95% CI = 0.66–0.85, p < 0.001) and segmental tortuosity (HR = 1.74, 95% CI = 1.22–2.47, p = 0.002) independently associated with mortality. Results were maintained with adjustment using DLco. Conclusions AirQuant generated measures of intersegmental tapering and segmental tortuosity independently associate with mortality in IPF patients. Abnormalities in proximal airway generations, which are not typically considered to be abnormal in IPF, have prognostic value. Clinical relevance statement Quantitative measurements of intersegmental tapering and segmental tortuosity, in proximal (second to sixth) generation airway segments, independently associate with mortality in IPF. Automated airway analysis can estimate disease severity, which in IPF is not restricted to the distal airway tree.