Computer-assisted diagnosis for early stage pleural mesothelioma: towards automated detection and quantitative assessment of pleural thickening from thoracic CT images

Methods of Information in Medicine. 2007;46(3):324-31. [Link]

Chaisaowong K, Aach T, Jäger P, Vogel S, Knepper A, Kraus T.

Institute fo Imaging and Computer Vision, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany.


Objectives: Pleural thickenings as biomarker of exposure to asbestos may evolve into malignant pleural mesothelioma. For its early stage, pleurectomy with perioperative treatment can reduce morbidity and mortality. The diagnosis is based on a visual investigation of CT images, which is a time-consuming and subjective procedure. Our aim is to develop an automatic image processing approach to detect and quantitatively assess pleural thickenings.

Methods: We first segment the lung areas, and identify the pleural contours. A convexity model is then used together with a Hounsfield unit threshold to detect pleural thickenings. The assessment of the detected pleural thickenings is based on a spline-based model of the healthy pleura.

Results: Tests were carried out on 14 data sets from three patients. In all cases, pleural contours were reliably identified, and pleural thickenings detected. PC-based Computation times were 85 min for a data set of 716 slices, 35 min for 401 slices, and 4 min for 75 slices, resulting
in an average computation time of about 5.2 s per slice. Visualizations of pleurae and detected thickenings were provided.

Conclusion: Results obtained so far indicate that our approach is able to assist physicians in the tedious task of finding and quantifying pleural thickenings in CT data. In the next step, our system will undergo an evaluation in a clinical test setting using routine CT data to quantify its performance.