Comparison of 1D, 2D, and 3D nodule sizing methods by radiologists for spherical and complex nodules on thoracic CT phantom images

Acad Radiol. 2014 Jan;21(1):30-40. doi: 10.1016/j.acra.2013.09.020.


Rationale and objectives: To estimate and statistically compare the bias and variance of radiologists measuring the size of spherical and complex synthetic nodules.

Materials and methods: This study did not require the institutional review board approval. Six radiologists estimated the size of 10 synthetic nodules embedded within an anthropomorphic thorax phantom from computed tomography scans at 0.8- and 5-mm slice thicknesses. The readers measured the nodule size using unidimensional (1D) longest in-slice dimension, bidimensional (2D) area from longest in-slice and longest perpendicular dimension, and three-dimensional (3D) semiautomated volume. Intercomparisons of bias (difference between average and true size) and variance among methods were performed after converting the 2D and 3D estimates to a compatible 1D scale.

Results: The relative biases of radiologists with the 3D tool were -1.8%, -0.4%, -0.7%, -0.4%, and -1.6% for 10-mm spherical, 20-mm spherical, 20-mm elliptical, 10-mm lobulated, and 10-mm spiculated nodules compared to 1.4%, -0.1%, -26.5%, -7.8%, and -39.8% for 1D. The three-dimensional measurements were significantly less biased than 1D for elliptical, lobulated, and spiculated nodules. The relative standard deviations for 3D were 7.5%, 3.9%, 3.6%, 9.7%, and 8.3% compared to 5.7%, 2.6%, 20.3%, 5.3%, and 16.4% for 1D. Unidimensional sizing was significantly less variable than 3D for the lobulated nodule and significantly more variable for the ellipsoid and spiculated nodules. Three-dimensional bias and variability were smaller for thin 0.8-mm slice data compared to thick 5.0-mm data.

Conclusions: The study shows that radiologist-controlled 3D volumetric lesion sizing can not only achieve smaller bias but also achieve similar or smaller variability compared to 1D sizing, especially for complex lesion shapes.

Keywords: Computer tomography; lung nodules; phantom study; volumetric tumor measurement.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Observer Variation
  • Phantoms, Imaging*
  • Radiographic Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Radiography, Thoracic / instrumentation
  • Radiography, Thoracic / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Solitary Pulmonary Nodule / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / instrumentation
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*