Primary reading or further evaluation of diagnostic imaging examination often needs a comparison between the actual findings and the relevant prior images of the same patient or similar radiological data found in other patients. This support is of clinical importance and may have significant effects on physicians’ examination reading efficiency, service-quality, and work satisfaction. We developed a visual query-by-example image database for storing and retrieving chest CT images by means of a visual browser Image Management Environment (IME) and tested its retrieval efficiency. The visual browser IME included four fundamental features (segmentation, indexing, quick load and recall, user-friendly interface) in an integrated graphical environment for a user-friendly image database management. The system was tested on a database of 2000 chest CT images, randomly chosen from the digital archives of our institutions. A sample of eight heterogeneous images were used as queries and, for each of them a team of three expert radiologists selected the most similar images from the database (a set of 15 images containing similar abnormalities in the same position of the query). The sensitivity and the positive predictive factor, both averaged over the 8 test queries and 15 answers, were respectively 0.975 and 0.91 The IME system is currently under evaluation at our institutions as an experimental application. We consider it a useful work-in-progress tool for clinical practice facilitating searches for a variety of radiological tasks
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