Clinical Impact and Generalizability of a Computer-Assisted Diagnostic Tool to Risk-Stratify Lung Nodules With CT

J Am Coll Radiol. 2023 Feb;20(2):232-242. doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2022.08.006. Epub 2022 Sep 3.


Objective: To evaluate whether an imaging classifier for radiology practice can improve lung nodule classification and follow-up.

Methods: A machine learning classifier was developed and trained using imaging data from the National Lung Screening Trial (NSLT) to produce a malignancy risk score (malignancy Similarity Index [mSI]) for individual lung nodules. In addition to NLST cohorts, external cohorts were developed from a tertiary referral lung cancer screening program data set and an external nonscreening data set of all nodules detected on CT. Performance of the mSI combined with Lung-RADS was compared with Lung-RADS alone and the Mayo and Brock risk calculators.

Results: We analyzed 963 subjects and 1,331 nodules across these cohorts. The mSI was comparable in accuracy (area under the curve = 0.89) to existing clinical risk models (area under the curve = 0.86-0.88) and independently predictive in the NLST cohort of 704 nodules. When compared with Lung-RADS, the mSI significantly increased sensitivity across all cohorts (25%-117%), with significant increases in specificity in the screening cohorts (17%-33%). When used in conjunction with Lung-RADS, use of mSI would result in earlier diagnoses and reduced follow-up across cohorts, including the potential for early diagnosis in 42% of malignant NLST nodules from prior-year CT scans.

Conclusion: A computer-assisted diagnosis software improved risk classification from chest CTs of screening and incidentally detected lung nodules compared with Lung-RADS. mSI added predictive value independent of existing radiological and clinical variables. These results suggest the generalizability and potential clinical impact of a tool that is straightforward to implement in practice.

Keywords: Artificial intelligence; CT; lung cancer; pulmonary nodule; radiomics.

MeSH terms

  • Computers
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods
  • Humans
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Multiple Pulmonary Nodules* / diagnostic imaging
  • Multiple Pulmonary Nodules* / pathology
  • Precancerous Conditions*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods