Development and Testing of Image-Processing Methods for the Quantitative Assessment of Airway Hyperresponsiveness from High-Resolution CT Images


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Abstract

Purpose:Our goal was to develop a protocol and image-processing methods to quantitate both bronchial and lung attenuation changes in patients imaged with helical high-resolution CT (HRCT).Method:Human subjects underwent helical HRCT at two suspended breath-hold conditions, functional residual capacity and residual volume, at baseline and following methacholine-induced bronchoprovocation. A semiautomated contouring program was used to define anatomically like bronchi and axial lung sections from the different physiologic sequences, from which automated measurements of area, shape, and attenuation were made. Because the gray level threshold for contouring directly affects the measured area of an anatomic strucutre, two types of evaluation studies were performed. These included in vivo measurements using baseline parameters of human subjects as the standard of reference and in vitro measurements of a CT phantom designed to simulate the air-soft tissue interfaces of bronchi.Results:Phantom tests showed that the minimum difference between actual and measured areas of holes occurred at a threshold of -500 HU. The smallest diameter holes were most sensitive to changes in threshold value. However, although absolute area measurements of both simulated and human bronchi varied with threshold level, the percent changes in airway areas between baseline and bronchoprovocation sequences were relatively stable at any given threshold.Conclusion:These image-processing tools provide reproducible measurements of area as well as attenuation characteristics of pulmonary structures and may offer insights into the practical use of functional imaging in evaluating conditions of airflow obstruction.

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