Sensitivity of Thoracic Digital Tomosynthesis (DTS) for the Identification of Lung Nodules

Steve G. Langer, Brian D. Graner, Beth A. Schueler, Kenneth A. Fetterly, James M. Kofler, Jayawant N. Mandrekar, Brian J. Bartholmai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Thoracic computed tomography (CT) is considered the gold standard for detection lung pathology, yet its efficacy as a screening tool in regards to cost and radiation dose continues to evolve. Chest radiography (CXR) remains a useful and ubiquitous tool for detection and characterization of pulmonary pathology, but reduced sensitivity and specificity compared to CT. This prospective, blinded study compares the sensitivity of digital tomosynthesis (DTS), to that of CT and CXR for the identification and characterization of lung nodules. Ninety-five outpatients received a posteroanterior (PA) and lateral CXR, DTS, and chest CT at one care episode. The CXR and DTS studies were independently interpreted by three thoracic radiologists. The CT studies were used as the gold standard and read by a fourth thoracic radiologist. Nodules were characterized by presence, location, size, and composition. The agreement between observers and the effective radiation dose for each modality was objectively calculated. One hundred forty-five nodules of greatest diameter larger than 4 mm and 215 nodules less than 4 mm were identified by CT. DTS identified significantly more >4 mm nodules than CXR (DTS 32 % vs. CXR 17 %). CXR and DTS showed no significant difference in the ability to identify the smaller nodules or central nodules within 3 cm of the hilum. DTS outperformed CXR in identifying pleural nodules and those nodules located greater than 3 cm from the hilum. Average radiation dose for CXR, DTS, and CT were 0.10, 0.21, and 6.8 mSv, respectively. Thoracic digital tomosynthesis requires significantly less radiation dose than CT and nearly doubles the sensitivity of that of CXR for the identification of lung nodules greater than 4 mm. However, sensitivity and specificity for detection and characterization of lung nodules remains substantially less than CT. The apparent benefits over CXR, low cost, rapid acquisition, and minimal radiation dose of thoracic DTS suggest that it may be a useful procedure. Work-up of a newly diagnosed nodule will likely require CT, given its superior cross-sectional characterization. Further investigation of DTS as a diagnostic, screening, and surveillance tool is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-147
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Digital Imaging
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • CT
  • Chest
  • Digital tomosynthesis
  • Pulmonary nodule
  • Radiography
  • Thoracic imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Computer Science Applications


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