Radiation imaging physics
Towards local progression estimation of pulmonary emphysema using CT
Whole lung densitometry on chest CT images is an accepted method for measuring tissue destruction in patients with pulmonary emphysema in clinical trials. Progression measurement is required for evaluation of change in health condition and the effect of drug treatment. Information about the location of emphysema progression within the lung may be important for the correct interpretation of drug efficacy, or for determining a treatment plan. The purpose of this study is therefore to develop and validate methods that enable the local measurement of lung density changes, which requires proper modeling of the effect of respiration on density.
Four methods, all based on registration of baseline and follow-up chest CT scans, are compared. The first naïve method subtracts registered images. The second employs the so-called dry sponge model, where volume correction is performed using the determinant of the Jacobian of the transformation. The third and the fourth introduce a novel adaptation of the dry sponge model that circumvents its constant-mass assumption, which is shown to be invalid. The latter two methods require a third CT scan at a different inspiration level to estimate the patient-specific density-volume slope, where one method employs a global and the other a local slope. The methods were validated on CT scans of a phantom mimicking the lung, where mass and volume could be controlled. In addition, validation was performed on data of 21 patients with pulmonary emphysema.
The image registration method was optimized leaving a registration error below half the slice increment (median 1.0 mm). The phantom study showed that the locally adapted slope model most accurately measured local progression. The systematic error in estimating progression, as measured on the phantom data, was below 2 gr/l for a 70 ml (6%) volume difference, and 5 gr/l for a 210 ml (19%) difference, if volume correction was applied. On the patient data an underlying linearity assumption relating lung volume change with density change was shown to hold (fitR2 = 0.94), and globalized versions of the local models are consistent with global results (R2 of 0.865 and 0.882 for the two adapted slope models, respectively).
In conclusion, image matching and subsequent analysis of differences according to the proposed lung models (i) has good local registration accuracy on patient data, (ii) effectively eliminates a dependency on inspiration level at acquisition time, (iii) accurately predicts progression in phantom data, and (iv) is reasonably consistent with global results in patient data. It is therefore a potential future tool for assessing local emphysema progression in drug evaluation trials and in clinical practice.