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PLoS One. 2013 Dec 16;8(12):e82211. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082211. eCollection 2013.

A model to discriminate malignant from benign thyroid nodules using artificial neural network.

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology and Chemotherapy, The First Affiliated Hospital of Wenzhou Medical College, Wenzhou, China.
  • 2Department of Oncology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Wenzhou Medical College, Wenzhou, China.



This study aimed to construct a model for using in differentiating benign and malignant nodules with the artificial neural network and to increase the objective diagnostic accuracy of US.


618 consecutive patients (528 women, 161 men) with 689 thyroid nodules (425 malignant and 264 benign nodules) were enrolled in the present study. The presence and absence of each sonographic feature was assessed for each nodule - shape, margin, echogenicity, internal composition, presence of calcifications, peripheral halo and vascularity on color Doppler. The variables meet the following criteria: important sonographic features and statistically significant difference were selected as the input layer to build the ANN for predicting the malignancy of nodules.


Six sonographic features including shape (Taller than wide, p<0.001), margin (Not Well-circumscribed, p<0.001), echogenicity (Hypoechogenicity, p<0.001), internal composition (Solid, p<0.001), presence of calcifications (Microcalcification, p<0.001) and peripheral halo (Absent, p<0.001) were significantly associated with malignant nodules. A three-layer 6-8-1 feed-forward ANN model was built. In the training cohort, the accuracy of the ANN in predicting malignancy of thyroid nodules was 82.3% (AURO  = 0.818), the sensitivity and specificity was 84.5% and 79.1%, respectively. In the validation cohort, the accuracy, sensitivity and specificity was 83.1%, 83.8% and 81.8%, respectively. The AUROC was 0.828.


ANN constructed by sonographic features can discriminate benign and malignant thyroid nodules with high diagnostic accuracy.

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