CT histogram analysis in pathologically proven adrenal masses

Erick M. Remer, Gaspar A. Motta-Ramirez, Laura B. Shepardson, Amir H. Hamrahian, Brian R. Herts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this article is to evaluate a histogram analysis method for distinguishing adrenal adenomas from metastases, pheochromocytomas, and adrenocortical carcinomas on CT. MATERIALS AND METHODS. A pathology database was searched, and 335 adrenalectomies from 1995 to 2002 were identified. CT images were available for retrospective review in 187 patients (93 males, 94 females; age range, 15-84 years; mean age, 55.2 years) with 208 adrenal masses. This included 112 adenomas in 104 patients, 48 metastases in 39 patients, 40 pheochromocytomas in 36 patients, and eight adrenocortical carcinomas in eight patients. Histogram analysis was performed using a circular region of interest for mean attenuation, number of pixels, number of negative pixels (< 0 H), and percentage of negative pixels by two interpreters. Areas of necrosis were excluded from measurements. Observer agreement was calculated. RESULTS. In 72 of 76 (94.7%) and 63 of 72 (87.5%) adenomas, respectively, interpreters found attenuation values greater than 10 H contained negative pixels on unenhanced CT scans. None of the enhanced adenomas had mean attenuation less than or equal to 10 H, but 24 (38.7%) and 28 (45.2%), respectively, had negative pixels. Negative pixels were present in unenhanced and enhanced metastases, pheochromocytomas, and carcinomas. Using a 5% or 10% negative pixel threshold value to diagnose adenoma improved specificity but diminished sensitivity. Specificity for a 10% negative pixel threshold was approximately 88% for unenhanced CT scans and 99% for enhanced CT scans, with sensitivities of 71% and 12%, respectively. CONCLUSION. Although specificity for the diagnosis of adenomas on enhanced CT scans with histogram analysis was high when a 10% negative pixel threshold was used, low sensitivity likely limits clinical usefulness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-196
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Abdominal imaging
  • Adrenal adenoma
  • Adrenal carcinoma
  • Adrenal gland
  • Adrenal metastasis
  • CT imaging
  • Pheochromocytoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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    Remer, E. M., Motta-Ramirez, G. A., Shepardson, L. B., Hamrahian, A. H., & Herts, B. R. (2006). CT histogram analysis in pathologically proven adrenal masses. American Journal of Roentgenology, 187(1), 191-196. https://doi.org/10.2214/AJR.05.0179