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Jacobs J Radiat Oncol. 2014 Sep;1(1):006.

Interobserver and intermodality variability in GTV delineation on simulation CT, FDG-PET, and MR Images of Head and Neck Cancer.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa, USA.
Department of Radiology, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa, USA.
Department of Biostatistics, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa, USA.
Department of Human Oncology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.



To compare the interobserver and intermodality differences in image-based identification of head and neck primary site gross tumor volumes (GTV). Modalities compared include: contrast-enhanced CT, F-18 fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (PET/CT) and contrast-enhanced MRI.


Fourteen patients were simulated after immobilization for all 3 imaging modalities (CT, PET/CT, MRI). Three radiation oncologists (RO) contoured GTVs as seen on each modality. The GTV was contoured first on the contrast-enhanced CT (considered the standard), then on PET/CT, and finally on post-contrast T1 MRI. Interobserver and intermodality variability were analyzed by volume, intersection, union, and volume overlap ratio (VOR).


Analysis of RO contours revealed the average volume for CT-, PET/CT-, and MRI-derived GTVs were 45cc, 35cc and 49cc, respectively. In 93% of cases PET/CT-derived GTVs had the smallest volume and in 57% of cases MRI-derived GTVs had the largest volume. CT showed the largest variation in target definition (standard deviation amongst observers 35%) compared to PET/CT (28%) and MRI (27%). The VOR was largest (indicating greatest interobserver agreement) in PET/CT (46%), followed by MRI (36%), followed by CT (34%). For each observer, the least agreement in GTV definition occurred between MRI & PET/CT (average VOR = 41%), compared to CT & PET/CT (48%) and CT & MRI (47%).


A nonsignificant interobserver difference in GTVs for each modality was seen. Among three modalities, CT was least consistent, while PET/CT-derived GTVs had the smallest volumes and were most consistent. MRI combined with PET/CT provided the least agreement in GTVs generated. The significance of these differences for head & neck cancer is important to explore as we move to volume-based treatment planning based on multi-modality imaging as a standard method for treatment delivery.


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