Variations in the functional visual field for detection of lung nodules on chest computed tomography: Impact of nodule size, distance, and local lung complexity

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Abstract

Purpose

To explore the characteristics that impact lung nodule detection by peripheral vision when searching for lung nodules on chest CT-scans.

Methods

This study was approved by the local IRB and is HIPAA compliant. A simulated primary (1°) target mass (2 × 2 × 5 cm) was embedded into 5 cm thick subvolumes (SV) extracted from three unenhanced lung MDCT scans (64 row, 1.25 mm thickness, 0.7 mm increment). One of 30 solid, secondary nodules with either 3–4 mm and 5–8 mm diameters were embedded into 192 of 207 SVs. The secondary nodule was placed at a random depth within each SV, a transverse distance of 2.5, 5, 7.5, or 10 mm, and along one of eight rays cast every 45° from the center of the 1° mass. Video recordings of transverse paging in cranio-caudal direction were created for each SV (frame rate three sections/sec). Six radiologists observed each cine-loop once while gaze-tracking hardware assured that gaze was centered on the 1° mass. Each radiologist assigned a confidence rating (0–5) to the detection of a secondary nodule and indicated its location. Detection sensitivity was analyzed relative to secondary nodule size, transverse distance, radial orientation, and lung complexity. Lung complexity was characterized by the number of particles (connected pixels) and the sum of the area of all particles above a −500 HU threshold within regions of interest around the 1° mass and secondary nodule.

Results

Using a proportional odds logistic regression model and eliminating redundant predictors, models fit individually to each reader resulted in the following decreasing order of association based on greatest reduction in Akaike Information Criterion: secondary nodule diameter (6/6 readers, P < 0.001), distance from central mass (6/6 readers, P < 0.001), lung complexity particle count (5/6 readers, P = 0.05), and lung complexity particle area (3/6 readers, P = 0.03). Substantial inter-reader differences in sensitivity to decreasing nodule diameter, distance, and complexity characteristics were observed.

Conclusions

Of the investigated parameters, secondary nodule size, distance from the gaze center and lung complexity (particle number and area) significantly impact nodule detection with peripheral vision.

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