Relationship between pulmonary nodule malignancy and surrounding pleurae, airways and vessels: a quantitative study using the public LIDC-IDRI dataset

24 Jun 2021  ·  Yulei Qin, Yun Gu, Hanxiao Zhang, Jie Yang, Lihui Wang, Zhexin Wang, Feng Yao, Yue-Min Zhu ·

To investigate whether the pleurae, airways and vessels surrounding a nodule on non-contrast computed tomography (CT) can discriminate benign and malignant pulmonary nodules. The LIDC-IDRI dataset, one of the largest publicly available CT database, was exploited for study. A total of 1556 nodules from 694 patients were involved in statistical analysis, where nodules with average scorings <3 and >3 were respectively denoted as benign and malignant. Besides, 339 nodules from 113 patients with diagnosis ground-truth were independently evaluated. Computer algorithms were developed to segment pulmonary structures and quantify the distances to pleural surface, airways and vessels, as well as the counting number and normalized volume of airways and vessels near a nodule. Odds ratio (OR) and Chi-square (\chi^2) testing were performed to demonstrate the correlation between features of surrounding structures and nodule malignancy. A non-parametric receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was conducted in logistic regression to evaluate discrimination ability of each structure. For benign and malignant groups, the average distances from nodules to pleural surface, airways and vessels are respectively (6.56, 5.19), (37.08, 26.43) and (1.42, 1.07) mm. The correlation between nodules and the counting number of airways and vessels that contact or project towards nodules are respectively (OR=22.96, \chi^2=105.04) and (OR=7.06, \chi^2=290.11). The correlation between nodules and the volume of airways and vessels are (OR=9.19, \chi^2=159.02) and (OR=2.29, \chi^2=55.89). The areas-under-curves (AUCs) for pleurae, airways and vessels are respectively 0.5202, 0.6943 and 0.6529. Our results show that malignant nodules are often surrounded by more pulmonary structures compared with benign ones, suggesting that features of these structures could be viewed as lung cancer biomarkers.

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