Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Preliminary Diagnosis: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

I. What imaging technique is first-line for this diagnosis?

Chest x-ray, PA, and lateral views.

II. Describe the advantages and disadvantages of this technique for diagnosing COPD.


  • Inexpensive.

  • Quick.

  • Portable.

  • Exposes patients to minimal ionizing radiation.


  • Less specific and sensitive in diagnosing COPD as compared to CT.

  • Less adept in detecting and characterizing an underlying primary pulmonary process or any secondary complications.

III. What are the contraindications for the first-line imaging technique?

No specific contraindications to plain radiography exist.

IV. What alternative imaging techniques are available?

CT of the chest without contrast/high resolution CT of the chest.

V. Describe the advantages and disadvantages of the alternative techniques for diagnosing COPD.


  • More sensitive and specific in detecting and characterizing a primary pulmonary process or detecting a secondary complication than plain radiographs.

  • High resolution CT of the chest offers exquisite detail of the underlying architecture of the lung parenchyma.


  • Exposes patient to more ionizing radiation than plain radiography.

  • Less portable.

VI. What are the contraindications for the alternative imaging techniques?

May be contraindicated in pregnant patients.

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