Objective: To characterize the ability of an automatic lung nodule segmentation algorithm to measure small nodule dimensions and growth rates. Methods: A phantom of 20 sets of 6 balls each (11 different nylon balls and 9 acrylic balls) of 1 to 9.5 mm in diameter, in foam, was imaged using x-ray computed tomography with slice thicknesses of 5, 2.5, and 1.25 mm, pitches of 3 and 6, and standard and lung resolution. Measurements consisted of volume and maximum in-plane cross-sectional areas and their derived maximum and effective diameters. Growth rates were simulated using pairs of groups of balls. Results: Volume measurements overestimate volume, more so for thicker slices. For the largest balls, the error is 60% for 5-mm slices and 20% for 1.25-mm slices. Effective diameter calculated from volume better approximates actual diameter. For area measurements, errors are 0% to 5% for the largest balls, and the effective and actual diameters are closely matched. Conclusions: Below 5 mm in diameter, changes in volume should reach 100% for reliable indication of growth. Above 6 mm, the threshold for detecting change is on the order of 25% growth. Even under ideal conditions, results indicate the need for caution when making a diagnosis of malignancy on the basis of volume change.
- Automatic segmentation
- Lung nodule
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging