Objective: To determine the effectiveness of the CT histogram method to characterize indeterminate adrenal nodules above 10 Hounsfield units (HU) on noncontrast CT. Materials and methods: Retrospective review of clinical CT data from January 2005 through 2008 identified 194 indeterminate adrenal nodules (>10 HU on noncontrast CT) in 175 patients. 20 nodules in 18 patients were excluded due to large standard deviation (SD > 30) of HU values. Of the remaining 174 nodules, 131 were classified as benign lipid-poor nodules based on size stability for ≥1 year (104), in- and opposed-phase MRI (17), adrenal washout CT (3), or biopsy (7). 43 were classified as malignant by size increase over a short time (30), avid FDG uptake on PET/CT (15), or biopsy (5). Histogram analysis was performed by drawing a circular region of interest on all adrenal nodules. Mean attenuation, total number of pixels, number of negative pixels, and percentage of negative pixels were recorded for each nodule. Results: At the threshold value of >10% negative pixels, 59/131 benign nodules were correctly characterized, but 1/43 malignant nodules was falsely characterized as benign (sensitivity 45%, specificity 98%, positive predictive value 98%). With a slightly higher threshold value of >15% negative pixels, there were no false benign judgments. 36 nodules had more than 15% negative pixels, all of which were benign (sensitivity 27%, specificity 100%, positive predictive value 100%). In the subgroup of benign nodules measuring 11–20 HU, 80% and 54% were identified with threshold values of >10% and >15% negative pixels, respectively. Conclusion: The CT histogram method with a threshold value of >10% negative pixels can identify many benign adrenal nodules with attenuation values >10 HU on unenhanced CT with extremely high specificity. A threshold of >15% negative pixels can achieve 100% specificity. This method is highly robust provided very “noisy” CT examinations (SD > 30) are eliminated.
- Adrenal nodules
- CT noise
- Histogram analysis
- Negative pixels
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging