It has been reported that the prevalence of kidney dysfunction may be increased in patients exposed to tobacco with airflow obstruction. We hypothesized that kidney dysfunction would associate with emphysema rather than with airflow obstruction measured by the FEV1.
Five hundred eight current and former smokers completed a chest CT scan, pulmonary function tests, medical questionnaires, and measurement of serum creatinine. Glomerular filtration rates (eGFRs) were estimated using the method of the Chronic Kidney Disease Epidemiology Collaboration. Quantitative determinants of emphysema and airway dimension were measured from multidetector chest CT scans.
The mean age was 66 ± 7 years, and mean eGFR was 101 ± 22 mL/min/1.73 m2. Univariate and multivariate analysis showed a significant association between radiographically measured emphysema and eGFR: Participants with 10% more emphysema had an eGFR that was lower by 4.4 mL/min/1.73 m2 (P = .01), independent of airflow obstruction (FEV1), age, sex, race, height, BMI, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, coronary artery disease, patient-reported dyspnea, pack-years of smoking, and current smoking. There was no association between eGFR and either FEV1 or quantitative CT scan measures of airway dimension.
More severe emphysema, rather than airflow obstruction, is associated with kidney dysfunction in tobacco smokers, independent of common risk factors for kidney disease. This finding adds to recent observations of associations between emphysema and comorbidities of COPD, including osteoporosis and lung cancer, which are independent of the traditional measure of reduced FEV1. The mechanisms and clinical implications of kidney dysfunction in patients with emphysema need further investigation.