Last revised by Candace Makeda Moore on 5 May 2024

Radiomics (as applied to radiology) is a field of medical study that aims to extract a large number of quantitative features from medical images using data characterization algorithms. The data is assessed for improved decision support. It has the potential to uncover disease characteristics that are difficult to identify by human vision alone.

The process of creating a database of correlative quantitative features, which can be used to analyze subsequent (unknown) cases includes the following steps 3.

Using a variety of reconstruction algorithms such as contrast, edge enhancement, etc. influences the quality and usability of the images, which in turn determines how easily and accurately an abnormal characteristic could be detected and characterized.

Identify/create areas (2D images) or volumes of interest (3D images). Can be done either manually, semi-automated, or fully automated using artificial intelligence.

For large data sets, an automated process is needed because manual techniques are usually very time-consuming and tend to be less accurate, less reproducible and less consistent compared with automated artificial intelligence techniques.

NB: many tools allow manual checking and adjustment of automated outputs, which is recommended especially with tools that use atlas based segmentation.

Features include volume, shape, surface, density, and intensity, texture, location, and relations with the surrounding tissues.

Semantic features are those that are commonly used in the radiology lexicon to describe regions of interest.

Agnostic features are those that attempt to capture lesion heterogeneity through quantitative mathematical descriptors.

  • shape

  • location

  • vascularity

  • spiculation

  • necrosis

  • attachments

  • kurtosis or skewness (of the image histogram)

  • Haralick textures

  • Laws textures

  • wavelets

  • Laplacian transforms

  • Minkowski functions

  • fractal dimensions

Radiomics can be applied to most imaging modalities including radiographs, ultrasound, CT, MRI and PET studies. It can be used to increase the precision in the diagnosis, assessment of prognosis, and prediction of therapy response, particularly in combination with clinical, biochemical, and genetic data. The technique has been used in oncological studies, but potentially can be applied to any disease.

A typical example of radiomics is using texture analysis to correlate molecular and histological features of diffuse high-grade gliomas 2

The determination of most discriminatory radiomics feature extraction methods varies with the modality of imaging and the pathology studied.

Current challenges include the full adoption of a common nomenclature, image data sharing, large computing power and storage requirements, and validating models across different imaging platforms and patient populations. Some of the challenges are being addressed by the increasing adoption of standards, such as the IBSI standards 4, and scoring such as the radiomics quality score (RQS) 5.

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