Detection and classification of thyroid follicular lesions based on nuclear structure from histopathology images

Cytometry A. 2010 May;77(5):485-94. doi: 10.1002/cyto.a.20853.


Follicular lesions of the thyroid are traditionally difficult and tedious challenges in diagnostic surgical pathology in part due to lack of obvious discriminatory cytological and microarchitectural features. We describe a computerized method to detect and classify follicular adenoma of the thyroid, follicular carcinoma of the thyroid, and normal thyroid based on the nuclear chromatin distribution from digital images of tissue obtained by routine histological methods. Our method is based on determining whether a set of nuclei, obtained from histological images using automated image segmentation, is most similar to sets of nuclei obtained from normal or diseased tissues. This comparison is performed utilizing numerical features, a support vector machine, and a simple voting strategy. We also describe novel methods to identify unique and defining chromatin patterns pertaining to each class. Unlike previous attempts in detecting and classifying these thyroid lesions using computational imaging, our results show that our method can automatically classify the data pertaining to 10 different human cases with 100% accuracy after blind cross validation using at most 43 nuclei randomly selected from each patient. We conclude that nuclear structure alone contains enough information to automatically classify the normal thyroid, follicular carcinoma, and follicular adenoma, as long as groups of nuclei (instead of individual ones) are used. We also conclude that the distribution of nuclear size and chromatin concentration (how tightly packed it is) seem to be discriminating features between nuclei of follicular adenoma, follicular carcinoma, and normal thyroid.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / classification*
  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / diagnosis*
  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / pathology
  • Adult
  • Cell Nucleus / classification*
  • Cell Nucleus / pathology*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / classification*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology