A Comparison of Lung Nodule Segmentation Algorithms: Methods and Results from a Multi-institutional Study

Jayashree Kalpathy-Cramer, Binsheng Zhao, Dmitry Goldgof, Yuhua Gu, Xingwei Wang, Hao Yang, Yongqiang Tan, Robert Gillies, Sandy Napel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Tumor volume estimation, as well as accurate and reproducible borders segmentation in medical images, are important in the diagnosis, staging, and assessment of response to cancer therapy. The goal of this study was to demonstrate the feasibility of a multi-institutional effort to assess the repeatability and reproducibility of nodule borders and volume estimate bias of computerized segmentation algorithms in CT images of lung cancer, and to provide results from such a study. The dataset used for this evaluation consisted of 52 tumors in 41 CT volumes (40 patient datasets and 1 dataset containing scans of 12 phantom nodules of known volume) from five collections available in The Cancer Imaging Archive. Three academic institutions developing lung nodule segmentation algorithms submitted results for three repeat runs for each of the nodules. We compared the performance of lung nodule segmentation algorithms by assessing several measurements of spatial overlap and volume measurement. Nodule sizes varied from 29 μl to 66 ml and demonstrated a diversity of shapes. Agreement in spatial overlap of segmentations was significantly higher for multiple runs of the same algorithm than between segmentations generated by different algorithms (p < 0.05) and was significantly higher on the phantom dataset compared to the other datasets (p < 0.05). Algorithms differed significantly in the bias of the measured volumes of the phantom nodules (p < 0.05) underscoring the need for assessing performance on clinical data in addition to phantoms. Algorithms that most accurately estimated nodule volumes were not the most repeatable, emphasizing the need to evaluate both their accuracy and precision. There were considerable differences between algorithms, especially in a subset of heterogeneous nodules, underscoring the recommendation that the same software be used at all time points in longitudinal studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)476-487
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Digital Imaging
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Computed tomography
  • Infrastructure
  • Lung cancer
  • Quantitative imaging
  • Segmentation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Computer Science Applications


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