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Variability in CT lung‐nodule quantification: Effects of dose reduction and reconstruction methods on density and texture based features

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To investigate the effects of dose level and reconstruction method on density and texture based features computed from CT lung nodules.


This study had two major components. In the first component, a uniform water phantom was scanned at three dose levels and images were reconstructed using four conventional filtered backprojection (FBP) and four iterative reconstruction (IR) methods for a total of 24 different combinations of acquisition and reconstruction conditions. In the second component, raw projection (sinogram) data were obtained for 33 lung nodules from patients scanned as a part of their clinical practice, where low dose acquisitions were simulated by adding noise to sinograms acquired at clinical dose levels (a total of four dose levels) and reconstructed using one FBP kernel and two IR kernels for a total of 12 conditions. For the water phantom, spherical regions of interest (ROIs) were created at multiple locations within the water phantom on one reference image obtained at a reference condition. For the lung nodule cases, the ROI of each nodule was contoured semiautomatically (with manual editing) from images obtained at a reference condition. All ROIs were applied to their corresponding images reconstructed at different conditions. For 17 of the nodule cases, repeat contours were performed to assess repeatability. Histogram (eight features) and gray level co-occurrence matrix (GLCM) based texture features (34 features) were computed for all ROIs. For the lung nodule cases, the reference condition was selected to be 100% of clinical dose with FBP reconstruction using the B45f kernel; feature values calculated from other conditions were compared to this reference condition. A measure was introduced, which the authors refer to as Q, to assess the stability of features across different conditions, which is defined as the ratio of reproducibility (across conditions) to repeatability (across repeat contours) of each feature.


The water phantom results demonstrated substantial variability among feature values calculated across conditions, with the exception of histogram mean. Features calculated from lung nodules demonstrated similar results with histogram mean as the most robust feature (Q ≤ 1), having a mean and standard deviation Q of 0.37 and 0.22, respectively. Surprisingly, histogram standard deviation and variance features were also quite robust. Some GLCM features were also quite robust across conditions, namely, diff. variance, sum variance, sum average, variance, and mean. Except for histogram mean, all features have a Q of larger than one in at least one of the 3% dose level conditions.


As expected, the histogram mean is the most robust feature in their study. The effects of acquisition and reconstruction conditions on GLCM features vary widely, though trending toward features involving summation of product between intensities and probabilities being more robust, barring a few exceptions. Overall, care should be taken into account for variation in density and texture features if a variety of dose and reconstruction conditions are used for the quantification of lung nodules in CT, otherwise changes in quantification results may be more reflective of changes due to acquisition and reconstruction conditions than in the nodule itself.

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