Identification of aspirated radiolucent foreign bodies in the pediatric airway using digital tomosynthesis: a multireader phantom study

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DOI: 10.1117/1.JMI.7.5.055502


Purpose: Foreign body aspiration is difficult to diagnose because many aspirated foreign bodies are low density or radiolucent. Digital radiographs (DR) are poor at detecting radiolucent foreign bodies. Digital tomosynthesis (DTS) has been shown to be ideally suited for applications where DR is insensitive and the increased dose from computed tomography (CT) is not justified. Our objective was to determine if DTS can be a practical alternative to DR and CT in the diagnosis of foreign body aspiration.

Approach: A phantom approximating the densities of a pediatric chest was constructed. Radiolucent foreign bodies were placed in the airways. Seven pediatric radiologists assessed DTS and DR images with and without simulated breathing motion. Two rounds were performed with fixed exposure techniques and then automatic exposure control techniques. Interobserver agreement was evaluated using Fleiss’ kappa.

Results: DTS and DR images using fixed exposure techniques performed very poorly with accuracies of 42% to 60%. DTS with automatic exposure control techniques increased accuracy to 84% for a stationary phantom, but the accuracy dropped to 70% in a phantom with simulated motion. DTS outperformed DR, with DR accuracies of 60% and 63% for stationary simulations and motion, respectively. Interobserver agreement was poor with Fleiss’ kappa of 0.476.

Conclusion: DTS is superior to DR for radiolucent foreign body detection. However, the overall accuracy and interobserver agreement are likely too low for this modality to be clinically useful.

Journal Title

J. of Medical Imaging





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