OBJECTIVES: Differentiating benign gallbladder diseases from gallbladder cancer (GBC) remains a radiological challenge because they can appear very similar on imaging. This study aimed at investigating whether CT-based radiomic features of suspicious gallbladder lesions analyzed by machine learning algorithms could adequately discriminate benign gallbladder disease from GBC. In addition, the added value of machine learning models to radiological visual CT-scan interpretation was assessed.
METHODS: Patients were retrospectively selected based on confirmed histopathological diagnosis and available contrast-enhanced portal venous phase CT-scan. The radiomic features were extracted from the entire gallbladder, then further analyzed by machine learning classifiers based on Lasso regression, Ridge regression, and XG Boosting. The results of the best-performing classifier were combined with radiological visual CT diagnosis and then compared with radiological visual CT assessment alone.
RESULTS: In total, 127 patients were included: 83 patients with benign gallbladder lesions and 44 patients with GBC. Among all machine learning classifiers, XG boosting achieved the best AUC of 0.81 (95% CI 0.72-0.91) and the highest accuracy rate of 73% (95% CI 65-80%). When combining radiological visual interpretation and predictions of the XG boosting classifier, the highest diagnostic performance was achieved with an AUC of 0.98 (95% CI 0.96-1.00), a sensitivity of 91% (95% CI 86-100%), a specificity of 93% (95% CI 90-100%), and an accuracy of 92% (95% CI 90-100%).
CONCLUSIONS: Machine learning analysis of CT-based radiomic features shows promising results in discriminating benign from malignant gallbladder disease. Combining CT-based radiomic analysis and radiological visual interpretation provided the most optimal strategy for GBC and benign gallbladder disease differentiation.
KEY POINTS: Radiomic-based machine learning algorithms are able to differentiate benign gallbladder disease from gallbladder cancer. Combining machine learning algorithms with a radiological visual interpretation of gallbladder lesions at CT increases the specificity, compared to visual interpretation alone, from 73 to 93% and the accuracy from 85 to 92%. Combined use of machine learning algorithms and radiological visual assessment seems the most optimal strategy for GBC and benign gallbladder disease differentiation.