Computed tomography (CT) is one of the popular tools for early detection of thyroid nodule. The pixel intensity of thyroid in CT image is very important information to distinguish nodule from normal thyroid tissue. The pixel intensity in normal thyroid tissues is homogeneous and smooth. In the benign or malignant nodules, the pixel intensity is heterogeneous. Several studies have shown that the first order features in ultrasound image can be used as imaging biomarkers in nodule recognition.
In this paper, we investigate the feasibility of utilizing the first order texture features to identify nodule from normal thyroid tissue in CT image. A total of 284 thyroid CT images from 113 patients were collected in this study. We used 150 healthy controlled thyroid CT images from 55 patients and 134 nodule images (50 malignant and 84 benign nodules) from 58 patients who have undergone thyroid surgery. The final diagnosis was confirmed by histopathological examinations. In the presented method, first, regions of interest (ROIs) from axial non-enhancement CT images were delineated manually by a radiologist. Second, average, median, and wiener filter were applied to reduce photon noise before feature extraction. The first-order texture features, including entropy, uniformity, average intensity, standard deviation, kurtosis and skewness were calculated from each ROI. Third, support vector machine analysis was applied for classification. Several statistical values were calculated to evaluate the performance of the presented method, which includes accuracy, sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), negative predictive value (NPV), and area of under receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC).
The entropy, uniformity, mean intensity, standard deviation, skewness (P < 0.05), except kurtosis (P = 0.104) of thyroid tissue with nodules have a significant difference from those of normal thyroid tissue. The optimal classification was obtained from the presented method. The accuracy, sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV) are 0.880, 0.821, 0.933, 0.917, 0.854, and 0.953 respectively.
First order texture features can be used as imaging biomarkers, and the presented system can be used to assist radiologists to recognize the nodules in CT image.