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Radiology. 1991 May;179(2):415-8.

Benign and malignant adrenal masses: CT distinction with attenuation coefficients, size, and observer analysis.

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Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114.


In a retrospective study of adrenal masses evaluated with computed tomography (CT), lesion x-ray attenuation was compared with size and radiologists' interpretations in discriminating benign lesions from malignant ones. Unenhanced CT attenuation coefficient and size were analyzed electronically in 55 patients with 66 adrenal masses. There were 38 nonhyperfunctioning adenomas in 33 patients and 28 malignant masses in 22 patients. Primary extraadrenal malignancies were present in 45 of the 55 patients. Three blinded readers characterized the adrenal masses using a seven-point scale of certainty. Results were subjected to receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis. The mean CT attenuation coefficient for benign adrenal masses was -2.2 HU +/- 16.0 and was significantly different from the mean for malignant lesions (28.9 HU +/- 10.6). The area under the ROC curve for CT attenuation coefficients (0.91 +/- 0.04) was significantly larger than that for lesion size (0.84 +/- 0.05) or best observer interpretation (0.84 +/- 0.05). A threshold CT attenuation value of 0 HU had a sensitivity-to-specificity ratio of 47%:100% for characterizing benign adrenal masses, whereas a threshold attenuation of 10 HU had a ratio of 79%:96%.

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