Consistency of reporting basic characteristics of lung nodules and masses on computed tomography

Acad Radiol. 2004 Feb;11(2):233-7. doi: 10.1016/s1076-6332(03)00573-7.


Rationale and objectives: To assess the consistency of chest computed tomography (CT) reports in describing basic characteristics of lung nodules and masses.

Materials and methods: We retrospectively identified 107 consecutive patients with preoperative chest CT scans before resection of a lung nodule or mass over a 4-year period within a single institution. There were 54 men and 53 women with a mean age of 64 years (range, 37-86) years. The CT scans were reported by a cohort of 20 board-certified radiologists, three of whom reviewed more than 10 CT scans (n = 60 exams). The CT reports were reviewed for lesion characteristics including size, location, and description of margins, presence or absence of calcification, fat and cavitation, and the diagnosis or differential diagnosis. Pathology reports were reviewed for the same characteristics and the final diagnosis. Both CT and pathologic reports of emphysema were noted in lobectomy specimens. The differences between the interpreting radiologists were also sought.

Results: A diagnosis or differential diagnosis was provided in 90% (96/107) of CT reports. The diagnosis of bronchogenic carcinoma was made in 78% (59/76) of those with bronchogenic carcinoma, compared with 65% (20/31) of those with other diagnoses (P = NS). Radiologists described the margins of the nodule or mass in 64% (68/107) of cases, similar in frequency to 66% of pathologists (71/107). Radiologic description of an irregular/spiculated margins predicted bronchogenic carcinoma in 86% of cases (42/49), while a smooth/lobulated margins predicted a diagnosis other than bronchogenic carcinoma in 58% (11/19; P < .05). The presence or absence of calcification was noted in 7% (5/76) of cases of bronchogenic carcinoma and 32% (10/31) of those with other diagnoses (P < .05, chi square). Both radiologists and pathologists consistently reported the size of the lesions with a correlation coefficient between radiology and pathology reports of 0.88. CT reporting of the characteristics of the lesion did not differ among lesions of different sizes. There was no significant difference between major reporters (more than 10 cases) in this study. Emphysema in the surrounding lung was reported in 25% (20/81) of radiology and 38% (31/81) of pathology reports (P = NS).

Conclusion: This series demonstrates a lack of consistent reporting of the margins of resected lung nodules both on CT and on pathologic specimens. The presence or absence of calcification was inconsistently reported, although more frequently noted in diagnoses other than bronchogenic carcinoma. As large-scale CT screening for lung cancer becomes more common, radiologists should prioritize developing and adopting standardized reporting criteria for the CT evaluation of lung nodules.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Observer Variation
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*