To estimate intersonographer and intrasonographer variance components of fetal nuchal translucency (NT) thickness measurement using the traditional manual approach and a new semi-automated system.
A semi-automated method was developed for measurement of the NT. In this method, the operator places an adjustable box over the relevant area at the back of the fetal neck. The system draws a line through the center of the nuchal membrane and another line at the edge of the soft tissue overlying the cervical spine. The system then identifies the largest vertical distance between the two lines. The images of 12 fetuses at 11–13 weeks of gestation satisfying the guidelines of The Fetal Medicine Foundation for measurement of NT were selected. They were exported in DICOM format from the ultrasound system, and four versions of each image were stored under different names. The resulting 48 images were presented in random order for electronic assessment. A total of 20 sonographers measured the NT in each set of 48 pictures, twice using the semi-automated system and twice using the manual system, according to a randomized block design. Within- and between-operator variance components were estimated. Relative biases were assessed by comparing the means from the two methods.
The estimated between-operator SD using the semi-automated method was 0.0149 mm compared with 0.109 mm for the manual method. The respective within-operator SD values were 0.05 mm and 0.126 mm. The intraclass correlation coefficients for different sonographers measuring the same images were 0.98 and 0.85 for the semi-automated method and the manual method, respectively.
The measurement of fetal NT is more reliable when a semi-automatic approach is used rather than the traditional manual method. Copyright © 2010 ISUOG. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.