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Keywords:

  • airway disease;
  • Imaging;
  • optical tomography

ABSTRACT

Airway diseases are a major concern around the world. However, the pace of new drug and biomarker discovery has lagged behind those of other common disorders such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. One major barrier in airway research has been the inability to accurately visualize large or small airway remodelling or dysplastic/neoplastic (either pre or early cancerous) changes using non- or minimally invasive instruments. The advent of optical coherence tomography (OCT) has the potential to revolutionize airway research and management by allowing investigators and clinicians to visualize the airway with resolution approaching histology and without exposing patients to harmful effects of ionizing radiation. Thus, with the aid of OCT, we may be able to accurately determine and quantify the extent of airway remodelling in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, detect early pre-cancerous lesions in smokers for chemoprevention, study the upper airway anatomy of patients with obstructive sleep apnea in real time while they are asleep and facilitate optimal selection of stents for those with tracheal obstruction. In this paper, we review the current state of knowledge of OCT and its possible application in airway diseases.