Quantifying the margin sharpness of lesions on radiological images for content-based image retrieval

Jiajing Xu*, Sandy Napel, Hayit Greenspan, Christopher F. Beaulieu, Neeraj Agrawal, Daniel Rubin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To develop a method to quantify the margin sharpness of lesions on CT and to evaluate it in simulations and CT scans of liver and lung lesions. Methods: The authors computed two attributes of margin sharpness: the intensity difference between a lesion and its surroundings, and the sharpness of the intensity transition across the lesion boundary. These two attributes were extracted from sigmoid curves fitted along lines automatically drawn orthogonal to the lesion margin. The authors then represented the margin characteristics for each lesion by a feature vector containing histograms of these parameters. The authors created 100 simulated CT scans of lesions over a range of intensity difference and margin sharpness, and used the concordance correlation between the known parameter and the corresponding computed feature as a measure of performance. The authors also evaluated their method in 79 liver lesions (44 patients: 23 M, 21 F, mean age 61) and 58 lung nodules (57 patients: 24 M, 33 F, mean age 66). The methodology presented takes into consideration the boundary of the liver and lung during feature extraction in clinical images to ensure that the margin feature do not get contaminated by anatomy other than the normal organ surrounding the lesions. For evaluation in these clinical images, the authors created subjective independent reference standards for pairwise margin sharpness similarity in the liver and lung cohorts, and compared rank orderings of similarity used using our sharpness feature to that expected from the reference standards using mean normalized discounted cumulative gain (NDCG) over all query images. In addition, the authors compared their proposed feature with two existing techniques for lesion margin characterization using the simulated and clinical datasets. The authors also evaluated the robustness of their features against variations in delineation of the lesion margin by simulating five types of deformations of the lesion margin. Equivalence across deformations was assessed using Schuirmanns paired two one-sided tests. Results: In simulated images, the concordance correlation between measured gradient and actual gradient was 0.994. The mean (s.d.) and standard deviation NDCG score for the retrieval of K images, K 5, 10, and 15, were 84 (8), 85 (7), and 85 (7) for CT images containing liver lesions, and 82 (7), 84 (6), and 85 (4) for CT images containing lung nodules, respectively. The authors' proposed method outperformed the two existing margin characterization methods in average NDCG scores over all K, by 1.5 and 3 in datasets containing liver lesion, and 4.5 and 5 in datasets containing lung nodules. Equivalence testing showed that the authors' feature is more robust across all margin deformations (p 0.05) than the two existing methods for margin sharpness characterization in both simulated and clinical datasets. Conclusions: The authors have described a new image feature to quantify the margin sharpness of lesions. It has strong correlation with known margin sharpness in simulated images and in clinical CT images containing liver lesions and lung nodules. This image feature has excellent performance for retrieving images with similar margin characteristics, suggesting potential utility, in conjunction with other lesion features, for content-based image retrieval applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5405-5418
Number of pages14
JournalMedical Physics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • computed tomography (CT)
  • feature extraction
  • image retrieval
  • liver lesions
  • lung nodules
  • margin sharpness


Dive into the research topics of 'Quantifying the margin sharpness of lesions on radiological images for content-based image retrieval'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this