Lung-RADS Category 4X: Does It Improve Prediction of Malignancy in Subsolid Nodules?

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Application of category 4X for suspicious subsolid nodules is of added value in the Lung CT Screening Reporting and Data System and has high malignancy rates in the hands of experienced radiologists.


To evaluate the added value of Lung CT Screening Reporting and Data System (Lung-RADS) assessment category 4X over categories 3, 4A, and 4B for differentiating between benign and malignant subsolid nodules (SSNs).

Materials and Methods

SSNs on all baseline computed tomographic (CT) scans from the National Lung Cancer Trial that would have been classified as Lung-RADS category 3 or higher were identified, resulting in 374 SSNs for analysis. An experienced screening radiologist volumetrically segmented all solid cores and located all malignant SSNs visible on baseline scans. Six experienced chest radiologists independently determined which nodules to upgrade to category 4X, a recently introduced category for lesions that demonstrate additional features or imaging findings that increase the suspicion of malignancy. Malignancy rates of purely size-based categories and category 4X were compared. Furthermore, the false-positive rates of category 4X lesions were calculated and observer variability was assessed by using Fleiss κ statistics.


The observers upgraded 15%–24% of the SSNs to category 4X. The malignancy rate for 4X nodules varied from 46% to 57% per observer and was substantially higher than the malignancy rates of categories 3, 4A, and 4B SSNs without observer intervention (9%, 19%, and 23%, respectively). On average, the false-positive rate for category 4X nodules was 7% for category 3 SSNs, 7% for category 4A SSNs, and 19% for category 4B SSNs. Of the falsely upgraded benign lesions, on average 27% were transient. The agreement among the observers was moderate, with an average κ value of 0.535 (95% confidence interval: 0.509, 0.561).


The inclusion of a 4X assessment category for lesions suspicious for malignancy in a nodule management tool is of added value and results in high malignancy rates in the hands of experienced radiologists. Proof of the transient character of category 4X lesions at short-term follow-up could avoid unnecessary invasive management.

© RSNA, 2017


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Article History

Received July 12, 2016; revision requested September 19; revision received November 9; accepted November 29; final version accepted January 27, 2017.
Published online: Mar 24 2017
Published in print: July 2017