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Open Access Research article

Reliability of computed tomography measurements in assessment of thigh muscle cross-sectional area and attenuation

Sören Strandberg1, Marie-Louise Wretling1, Torsten Wredmark2 and Adel Shalabi1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Radiology, Karolinska University Hospital, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

2 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Karolinska University Hospital, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

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BMC Medical Imaging 2010, 10:18  doi:10.1186/1471-2342-10-18

Published: 11 August 2010

Abstract

Background

Advancement in technology of computer tomography (CT) and introduction of new medical imaging softwares enables easy and rapid assessment of muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) and attenuation. Before using these techniques in clinical studies there is a need for evaluation of the reliability of the measurements. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the inter- and intra-observer reliability of ImageJ in measuring thigh muscles CSA and attenuation in patients with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury by computer tomography.

Methods

31 patients from an ongoing study of rehabilitation and muscle atrophy after ACL reconstruction were included in the study. Axial CT images with slice thickness of 10 mm at the level of 150 mm above the knee joint were analyzed by two investigators independently at two times with a minimum of 3 weeks between the two readings using NIH ImageJ. CSA and the mean attenuation of individual thigh muscles were analyzed for both legs.

Results

Mean CSA and mean attenuation values were in good agreement both when comparing the two observers and the two replicates. The inter- and intraclass correlation (ICC) was generally very high with values from 0.98 to 1.00 for all comparisons except for the area of semimembranosus. All the ICC values were significant (p < 0,001). Pearson correlation coefficients were also generally very high with values from 0.98 to 1.00 for all comparisons except for the area of semimembranosus (0.95 for intraobserver and 0.92 for interobserver).

Conclusion

This study has presented ImageJ as a method to monitor and evaluate CSA and attenuation of different muscles in the thigh using CT-imaging. The method shows an overall excellent reliability with respect to both observer and replicate.