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Med Dosim. 2012 Winter;37(4):401-5. doi: 10.1016/j.meddos.2012.03.002. Epub 2012 May 23.

Accuracy in contouring of small and low contrast lesions: comparison between diagnostic quality computed tomography scanner and computed tomography simulation scanner-A phantom study.

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  • 1Medical Physics and Research Department, Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital, Hong Kong.


To evaluate the accuracy in detection of small and low-contrast regions using a high-definition diagnostic computed tomography (CT) scanner compared with a radiotherapy CT simulation scanner. A custom-made phantom with cylindrical holes of diameters ranging from 2-9 mm was filled with 9 different concentrations of contrast solution. The phantom was scanned using a 16-slice multidetector CT simulation scanner (LightSpeed RT16, General Electric Healthcare, Milwaukee, WI) and a 64-slice high-definition diagnostic CT scanner (Discovery CT750 HD, General Electric Healthcare). The low-contrast regions of interest (ROIs) were delineated automatically upon their full width at half maximum of the CT number profile in Hounsfield units on a treatment planning workstation. Two conformal indexes, CI(in), and CI(out), were calculated to represent the percentage errors of underestimation and overestimation in the automated contours compared with their actual sizes. Summarizing the conformal indexes of different sizes and contrast concentration, the means of CI(in) and CI(out) for the CT simulation scanner were 33.7% and 60.9%, respectively, and 10.5% and 41.5% were found for the diagnostic CT scanner. The mean differences between the 2 scanners' CI(in) and CI(out) were shown to be significant with p < 0.001. A descending trend of the index values was observed as the ROI size increases for both scanners, which indicates an improved accuracy when the ROI size increases, whereas no observable trend was found in the contouring accuracy with respect to the contrast levels in this study. Images acquired by the diagnostic CT scanner allow higher accuracy on size estimation compared with the CT simulation scanner in this study. We recommend using a diagnostic CT scanner to scan patients with small lesions (<1 cm in diameter) for radiotherapy treatment planning, especially for those pending for stereotactic radiosurgery in which accurate delineation of small-sized, low-contrast regions is important for dose calculation.

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