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Automated CT image evaluation of the lung: a morphology-based concept

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3 Author(s)
Blechschmidt, R.A. ; Dept. of Electr. Eng. & Inf. Technol., Univ. of Technol., Darmstadt, Germany ; Werthschutzky, R. ; Lorcher, U.

Computed tomography (CT) provides the most reliable method to detect emphysema in vivo. Commonly used methods only calculate the area of low attenuation [pixel index (PI)], while a radiologist considers the bullous morphology of emphysema. The PI is a good, well-known measure of emphysema. But it is not able to detect emphysema in cases in which emphysema and fibrosis occur at the same time. This is because fibrosis leads to a low number of low-attenuation pixels, while emphysema leads to a high number of pixels. The PI takes the average of both and, consequently, may present a result within the normal range. The main focus of this paper is to present a new algorithm of thoracic CT image evaluation based on pulmonary morphology of emphysema. The PI is extended, in that it is enabled to differentiate between small, medium, and large bullae (continuous low-attenuation areas). It is not a texture-based algorithm. The bullae are sorted by size into four size classes: class 1 being within the typical size of lung parenchyma; classes 24 presenting small, medium, and large bullae. It is calculated how much area the different classes take up of all low-attenuation pixels. The bullae index (BI) is derived from the percentage of areas covered, respectively, by small, medium, and large bullae. From the relation of the area of bullae belonging to class 4, to that of those belonging to class 2, a measure of the emphysema type (ET) is calculated. It classifies the lung by the type of emphysema in bullous emphysema or small-sized, diffuse emphysema, respectively. The BI is as reliable as the PI. In cases in which the PI indicates normal values while in fact emphysema is coexisting with fibrosis, the BI, nevertheless, detects the destruction caused by the emphysema. The BI combined with the ET reflects the visual assessment of the radiological expert. In conclusion, the BI is an objective and reliable index in order to quantify emphysematous destruction, hence, avoiding interobserv- - er variance. This is particularly interesting for follow-up. The classification of the ET is a helpful and unique approach to achieving an exact diagnosis of emphysema.

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Medical Imaging, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:20 ,  Issue: 5 )