Dual-energy Computed Tomography for the Evaluation of Enhancement of Pulmonary Nodules≤3 cm in Size

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The aim of the study was to compare the accuracies of 4 different methods of assessing pulmonary nodule enhancement to distinguish benign from malignant solid pulmonary nodules using nondynamic contrast-enhanced dual-energy computed tomography.

Materials and Methods:

Seventy-two patients (mean age, 62 y) underwent dual-energy chest computed tomography 3 minutes after intravenous contrast administration. Each of 118 pulmonary nodules (9±5.9 mm) were evaluated for enhancement by 4 methods: visual assessment, 3-dimensional automated postprocessing measurement tool, manually drawn region of interest with calculated iodine-related attenuation, and measurement of iodine concentration. The optimal cutoff for enhancement was defined as having the largest specificity among all cutoffs while maintaining 100% sensitivity. Accuracy of the methods was assessed with receiver operating characteristic curves.


Ninety-three of 118 pulmonary nodules were benign (79%). Visual assessment of enhancement had sensitivity and specificity of 100% and 44%, respectively. For the automated 3-dimensional measurement tool, 20 HU was found to be the optimal threshold for defining enhancement, resulting in a specificity of 71% and a sensitivity of 100%, as well as an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.87 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.82-0.92). The AUC was 0.79 (95% CI, 0.73-0.85) for the measured enhancement using a manually drawn region of interest. When a threshold of 21 HU was used for defining enhancement, maximum specificity was obtained (56%) while maintaining 100% sensitivity. The AUC for measured iodine concentration was 0.79 (95% CI, 0.77-0.85). At a cutoff iodine concentration of 0.6 mg/mL, the sensitivity was 100% with a specificity of 57%.


Although use of automated postprocessing had the highest specificity while maintaining 100% sensitivity, there were only minor clinically relevant differences between measurement techniques given that no single technique misclassified a malignant nodule as nonenhancing.

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