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Abstract | Full HTML Article | PDF ecancer 14 996 / https://doi.org/10.3332/ecancer.2020.996


The emerging role of radiation therapists in the contouring of organs at risk in radiotherapy: analysis of inter-observer variability with radiation oncologists for the chest and upper abdomen

Aims: To compare the contouring of organs at risk (OAR) between a clinical specialist radiation therapist (CSRT) and radiation oncologists (ROs) with different levels of expertise (senior–SRO, junior–JRO, fellow–FRO).

Methods: On ten planning computed tomography (CT) image sets of patients undergoing breast radiotherapy (RT), the observers independently contoured the contralateral breast, heart, left anterior descending artery (LAD), oesophagus, kidney, liver, spinal cord, stomach and trachea. The CSRT was instructed by the JRO e SRO. The inter-observer variability of contoured volumes was measured using the Dice similarity coefficient (DSC) (threshold of ≥ 0.7 for good concordance) and the centre of mass distance (CMD). The analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed and a p-value < 0.01 was considered statistically significant.

Results: Good overlaps (DSC > 0.7) were obtained for all OARs, except for LAD (DSC = 0.34 ± 0.17, mean ± standard deviation) and oesophagus (DSC = 0.66 ± 0.06, mean ± SD). The mean CMD < 1 cm was achieved for all the OARs, but spinal cord (CMD = 1.22 cm). By pairing the observers, mean DSC > 0.7 and mean CMD < 1 cm were achieved in all cases. The best overlaps were seen for the pairs JRO-CSRT(DSC = 0.82; CMD = 0.49 cm) and SRO-JRO (DSC = 0.80; CMD = 0.51 cm).

Conclusions: Overall, good concordance was found for all the observers. Despite the short training in contouring, CSRT obtained good concordance with his tutor (JRO). Great variability was seen in contouring the LAD, due to its difficult visualization and identification of CT scans without contrast.

Keywords: contouring, inter-observer variability, organs at risk (OAR), radiation therapist


Breast Radiotherapy

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Founding partners

European Cancer Organisation European Institute of Oncology

Founding Charities

Foundazione Umberto Veronesi Fondazione IEO Swiss Bridge

Published by

ecancer Global Foundation