MRI as a Diagnostic for Asthma.

MRI as a Diagnostic for Asthma

My life is filled with asthma adventures and this week, I just went on another one. Three years ago, I decided to participate in a research study which will be looking at the role of MRI in determining how asthma patients imaging can guide treatment. The general hypothesis is that MRIs can be a very effective tool in asthma management. They will be using MRI with an inhaled gas inhaled hyperpolarized helium-3 (3He) and xenon-129 (129Xe) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).1 Essentially they will be looking at how my lungs move air and the areas that the gas does not reach are considered to be “ventilation defects”.2 The gases help to provide a visual picture of lungs and the data obtained form the breath holds helps to build personalized temporal-spatial pulmonary function maps. The hope is that these maps will help researchers determine endpoints or targets for treatment.3

I was doing a bit of research to understand a bit more of why the research was being done. Initially when I decided to participate in this research, it was being done to in reference to Bronchial Thermoplasty (BT). The researchers have hypothesized that imaging could assist the planning of BT procedures. Part of the study was designed to at patients in the pre optimization phase and the optimization stage. In my case, this means that my inflammation needed to be controlled and my symptoms stabilized. As a side note BT ended up not being a treatment that I ended up pursuing. In discussing my options with my care team, I was determined that I was almost always going to have some form of inflammation component involved in my asthma and that I would likely benefit from other treatment options. Now that my inflammation is well controlled, they are going to do an “optimized“ scan. Essentially it means that my inflammation is now controlled and I am on an “optimized” dosing of oral corticosteroids. These scans will be compared with my “pre optimized” scans to determine changes, improvements and correlations to treatment. The data out of these studies is promising but still young. I am chalking this experience up to “what I can do for science”. I have to admit that the scans are really cool, and the ability to learn, even a little bit form the scientists and researchers are invaluable experiences. The body plethsymograghy test that goes with this is less exciting. I however did however have epic improvement in my Nitrogen Washout test which was a lovely discovery. Last time, I really struggled with it. The researcher was explaining to me that my results were bordering on “normal” this time and that she recalled that I really struggled with it last time which could elude the presence of lots of mucous plugging. Mucous/sputum and I are best friend so this was no surprise. I have also made some major treatment changes which has me in a stretch right now. I am going to take this testing win. I have to admit that even made my day.

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View References
  1.  Svenningsen, Sarah, "Pulmonary Imaging to Be er Understand Asthma" (2015). Electronic esis and Dissertation Repository. 3352.h p://
  2. Lung imaging in asthmatic patients: The picture is clearer Castro, Mario et al. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology , Volume 128 , Issue 3 , 467 - 478
  3. Acad Radiol. 2014 Nov;21(11):1402-10. dos: 10.1016/j.acra.2014.08.002  Pulmonary functional magnetic resonance imaging: asthma temporal-spatial maps.