Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate, on images obtained in nuclear medicine examinations, the physical meanings and consequent implications of fractal analysis developed in a recent study that was reported to be effective in quantifying the heterogeneous distribution of carbon particle radioaerosol in the lungs.
Materials and methods: Fractal dimensions were computed for 108 sets of radionuclide imaging data from 28 patients according to the methods in a previous report, and were then correlated with the ratio of tissue areas segmented at two thresholds (15% and 35% of maximal radioactivity).
Results: Fractal dimension was found to linearly correlate with the ratio natural logarithm of tissue areas segmented at two different threshold levels (n = 108, r = 0.999), with regression slope accurately predicted (error = 0.06%). Bland-Altman analysis showed that fractal dimensions ranging from 0.2 to 1.9 can be explained by this area ratio with disagreement of only 5.13% at two standard deviations; thus, fractal dimension seems to be an over-simplified parameter unrelated to spatial heterogeneity of radioaerosol distribution.
Conclusion: The analysis of this study suggested that the fractal dimension defined in a previous report was limited to the indication of the percentage area of low-radioactivity regions with respect to total tissue area in the image. Because the fractal dimension partially reflects, but is not specific to, a certain degree of focal spots of low radioactivity, we suggest using fractal analysis in clinical practice only with careful control and thorough understanding of the physical meanings.