Observer performance for detection of pulmonary nodules at chest CT over a large range of radiation dose levels

Joel G. Fletcher, David L. Levin, Anne Marie G. Sykes, Rebecca M. Lindell, Darin B. White, Ronald S. Kuzo, Vighnesh Suresh, Lifeng Yu, Shuai Leng, David R. Holmes, Akitoshi Inoue, Matthew P. Johnson, Rickey E. Carter, Cynthia H. McCollough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: There is a wide variation in radiation dose levels that can be used with chest CT in order to detect indeterminate pulmonary nodules. Purpose: To compare the performance of lower-radiation-dose chest CT with that of routine dose in the detection of indeterminate pulmonary nodules 5 mm or greater. Materials and Methods: In this retrospective study, CT projection data from 83 routine-dose chest CT examinations performed in 83 patients (120 kV, 70 quality reference mAs [QRM]) were collected between November 2013 and April 2014. Reference indeterminate pulmonary nodules were identified by two nonreader thoracic radiologists. By using validated noise insertion, five lower-dose data sets were reconstructed with filtered back projection (FBP) or iterative reconstruction (IR; 30 QRM with FBP, 10 QRM with IR, 5 QRM with FBP, 5 QRM with IR, and 2.5 QRM with IR). Three thoracic radiologists circled pulmonary nodules, rating confidence that the nodule was a 5-mm-or-greater indeterminate pulmonary nodule, and graded image quality. Analysis was performed on a per-nodule basis by using jackknife alternative free-response receiver operating characteristic figure of merit (FOM) and noninferiority limit of 20.10. Results: There were 66 indeterminate pulmonary nodules (mean size, 8.6 mm ± 3.4 [standard deviation]; 21 part-solid nodules) in 42 patients (mean age, 51 years ± 17; 21 men and 21 women). Compared with the FOM for routine-dose CT (size-specific dose estimate, 6.5 mGy ± 1.8; FOM, 0.86 [95% confidence interval: 0.80, 0.91]), FOM was noninferior for all lower-dose configurations except for 2.5 QRM with IR. The sensitivity for subsolid nodules at 70 QRM was 60% (range, 48%-72%) and was significantly worse at a dose of 5 QRM and lower, whether or not IR was used (P < .05). Diagnostic image quality decreased with decreasing dose (P < .001) and was better with IR at 5 QRM (P < .05). Conclusion: CT images reconstructed at dose levels down to 10 quality reference mAs (size-specific dose estimate, 0.9 mGy) had noninferior performance compared with routine dose in depicting pulmonary nodules. Iterative reconstruction improved subjective image quality but not performance at low dose levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)699-707
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


Dive into the research topics of 'Observer performance for detection of pulmonary nodules at chest CT over a large range of radiation dose levels'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this