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Radiology. 2019 Nov;293(2):334-342. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2019190512. Epub 2019 Sep 17.

Automated Liver Fat Quantification at Nonenhanced Abdominal CT for Population-based Steatosis Assessment.

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From the Department of Radiology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, E3/311 Clinical Science Center, 600 Highland Ave, Madison, Wis 53792-3252 (P.M.G., P.J.P.); and Imaging Biomarkers and Computer-Aided Diagnosis Laboratory, Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences, National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, Bethesda, Md (V.S., R.M.S.).


Background Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and its consequences are a growing public health concern requiring cross-sectional imaging for noninvasive diagnosis and quantification of liver fat. Purpose To investigate a deep learning-based automated liver fat quantification tool at nonenhanced CT for establishing the prevalence of steatosis in a large screening cohort. Materials and Methods In this retrospective study, a fully automated liver segmentation algorithm was applied to noncontrast abdominal CT examinations from consecutive asymptomatic adults by using three-dimensional convolutional neural networks, including a subcohort with follow-up scans. Automated volume-based liver attenuation was analyzed, including conversion to CT fat fraction, and compared with manual measurement in a large subset of scans. Results A total of 11 669 CT scans in 9552 adults (mean age ± standard deviation, 57.2 years ± 7.9; 5314 women and 4238 men; median body mass index [BMI], 27.8 kg/m2) were evaluated, including 2117 follow-up scans in 1862 adults (mean age, 59.2 years; 971 women and 891 men; mean interval, 5.5 years). Algorithm failure occurred in seven scans. Mean CT liver attenuation was 55 HU ± 10, corresponding to CT fat fraction of 6.4% (slightly fattier in men than in women [7.4% ± 6.0 vs 5.8% ± 5.7%; P < .001]). Mean liver Hounsfield unit varied little by age (<4 HU difference among all age groups) and only weak correlation was seen with BMI (r2 = 0.14). By category, 47.9% (5584 of 11 669) had negligible or no liver fat (CT fat fraction <5%), 42.4% (4948 of 11 669) had mild steatosis (CT fat fraction of 5%-14%), 8.8% (1025 of 11 669) had moderate steatosis (CT fat fraction of 14%-28%), and 1% (112 of 11 669) had severe steatosis (CT fat fraction >28%). Excellent agreement was seen between automated and manual measurements, with a mean difference of 2.7 HU (median, 3 HU) and r2 of 0.92. Among the subcohort with longitudinal follow-up, mean change was only -3 HU ± 9, but 43.3% (806 of 1861) of patients changed steatosis category between first and last scans. Conclusion This fully automated CT-based liver fat quantification tool allows for population-based assessment of hepatic steatosis and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, with objective data that match well with manual measurement. The prevalence of at least mild steatosis was greater than 50% in this asymptomatic screening cohort.


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