Adrenal masses: CT characterization with histogram analysis method

Kyongtae T. Bae, Pornpim Fuangtharnthip, Srinivasa R. Prasad, Bonnie N. Joe, Jay P. Heiken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: To evaluate a histogram analysis method for differentiating adrenal adenoma from metastasis at computed tomography (CT). MATERIALS AND METHODS: In a retrospective review of 2 years of clinical CT records, 223 adrenal adenomas in 193 patients (115 with contrast material-enhanced CT, 43 with unenhanced and enhanced CT, and 35 with unenhanced CT) and 31 metastases (25 patients with enhanced CT) were found. In 158 patients with adenomas at enhanced CT, diagnosis was based on stable mass size for more than 1 year (n = 135) and characteristic signal intensity decrease at chemical shift magnetic resonance imaging (n = 23). In 35 patients with adenomas at unenhanced CT, mean attenuation was 10 HU or less. Diagnosis of all metastases was based on rapid growth of a mass or new mass in less than 6 months in patients with cancer. Adrenal metastases with extensive necrosis were excluded. Histogram analysis was performed in a circular region of interest (ROI) for mean attenuation, number of pixels, and range of pixel attenuation for all pixels and for the subset of pixels with less than 0 HU ("negative" pixels). Correlation between mean attenuation and percentage negative pixels was calculated. RESULTS: Negative pixels were present in all 74 unenhanced adenomas with mean attenuation of 10 HU or less and in 14 of 16 unenhanced adenomas with mean attenuation above 10 HU. Of 184 enhanced adenomas, only 20 had mean attenuation of 10 HU or less, but 97 contained negative pixels (77 of these 97 masses had mean attenuation above 10 HU). Increase in percentage negative pixels was highly correlated with decrease in mean attenuation of both unenhanced and enhanced adenomas. None of the adrenal metastases had mean attenuation of 10 HU or less or contained negative pixels. CONCLUSION: The histogram method is far more sensitive than the 10-HU threshold method for diagnosis of adrenal adenomas at enhanced CT, with specificity maintained at 100%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-742
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2003


  • Adrenal gland, CT
  • Adrenal gland, neoplasms
  • Computed tomography (CT), quantitative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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