Localization of liver lesions in abdominal CT imaging: I. Correlation of human observer performance between anatomical and uniform backgrounds.

Authors: Dilger S, Yu L, Chen B, Favazza CP, Carter RE, Fletcher JG, McCollough CH, Leng S
April 17th, 2019


The purpose of this study was to determine the correlation between human observer performance for localization of small low contrast lesions within uniform water background versus an anatomical liver background, under the conditions of varying dose, lesion size, and reconstruction algorithm.

Materials and Methods:

Liver lesions (5mm, 7mm, and 9mm, contrast: -21HU) were digitally inserted into CT projection data of 10 normal patients in vessel-free liver regions. Noise was inserted into the projection data to create three image sets: full dose and simulated half and quarter doses. Images were reconstructed with a standard filtered back projection (FBP) and an iterative reconstruction (IR) algorithm. Lesion and noise insertion procedures were repeated with water phantom data. Two-dimensional regions of interest (66 lesion-present, 34 lesion-absent) were selected, randomized, and independently reviewed by three medical physicists to identify the most likely location of the lesion and provide a confidence score. Locations and confidence scores were assessed using the area under the localization receiver operating characteristic curve (AzLROC). We examined the correlation between human performance for the liver and uniform water backgrounds as dose, lesion size, and reconstruction algorithm varied.


As lesion size or dose increased, reader localization performance improved. For full dose IR images, the AzLROC for 5, 7, and 9mm lesions were 0.53, 0.91, and 0.97 (liver) and 0.51, 0.96, and 0.99 (uniform water), respectively. Similar trends were seen with other parameters. Performance values for liver and uniform backgrounds were highly correlated for both reconstruction algorithms, with a Spearman correlation of ρ=0.97, and an average difference in AzLROC of 0.05±0.04.


For the task of localizing low contrast liver lesions, human observer performance was highly correlated between anatomical and uniform backgrounds, suggesting that lesion localization studies emulating a clinical test of liver lesion detection can be performed using a uniform background.

Sara McFarland