Defining tumor growth in vestibular schwannomas: a volumetric inter-observer variability study in contrast-enhanced T1-weighted MRI

Neuroradiology. 2024 Jul 9. doi: 10.1007/s00234-024-03416-w. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: For patients with vestibular schwannomas (VS), a conservative observational approach is increasingly used. Therefore, the need for accurate and reliable volumetric tumor monitoring is important. Currently, a volumetric cutoff of 20% increase in tumor volume is widely used to define tumor growth in VS. The study investigates the tumor volume dependency on the limits of agreement (LoA) for volumetric measurements of VS by means of an inter-observer study.

Methods: This retrospective study included 100 VS patients who underwent contrast-enhanced T1-weighted MRI. Five observers volumetrically annotated the images. Observer agreement and reliability was measured using the LoA, estimated using the limits of agreement with the mean (LOAM) method, and the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC).

Results: The 100 patients had a median average tumor volume of 903 mm3 (IQR: 193-3101). Patients were divided into four volumetric size categories based on tumor volume quartile. The smallest tumor volume quartile showed a LOAM relative to the mean of 26.8% (95% CI: 23.7-33.6), whereas for the largest tumor volume quartile this figure was found to be 7.3% (95% CI: 6.5-9.7) and when excluding peritumoral cysts: 4.8% (95% CI: 4.2-6.2).

Conclusion: Agreement limits within volumetric annotation of VS are affected by tumor volume, since the LoA improves with increasing tumor volume. As a result, for tumors larger than 200 mm3, growth can reliably be detected at an earlier stage, compared to the currently widely used cutoff of 20%. However, for very small tumors, growth should be assessed with higher agreement limits than previously thought.

Keywords: Inter-observer variability; MRI; Vestibular schwannoma; Volumetric analysis.