Predictors of invasive adenocarcinomas among pure ground-glass nodules less than 2 cm in diameter

Wen Chi Hsu, Pei Ching Huang, Kuang Tse Pan, Wen Yu Chuang, Ching Yang Wu, Ho Fai Wong, Cheng Ta Yang, Yung Liang Wan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

14 Scopus citations


Benign lesions, atypical adenomatous hyperplasia (AAH), and malignancies such as adenocarcinoma in situ (AIS), minimally invasive adenocarcinoma (MIA), and invasive adenocarcinoma (IA) may feature a pure ground-glass nodule (pGGN) on a thin-slide computed tomography (CT) image. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) classification for lung cancer, the prognosis of patients with IA is worse than those with AIS and MIA. It is relatively risky to perform a core needle biopsy of a pGGN less than 2 cm to obtain a reliable pathological diagnosis. The early and adequate management of patients with IA may provide a favorable prognosis. This study aimed to disclose suggestive signs of CT to accurately predict IA among the pGGNs. A total of 181 pGGNs of less than 2 cm, in 171 patients who had preoperative CT-guided localization for surgical excision of a lung nodule between December 2013 and August 2019, were enrolled. All had CT images of 0.625 mm slice thickness during CT-guided intervention to confirm that the nodules were purely ground glass. The clinical data, CT images, and pathological reports of those 171 patients were reviewed. The CT findings of pGGNs including the location, the maximal diameter in the long axis (size-L), the maximal short axis diameter perpendicular to the size-L (size-S), and the mean value of long and short axis diameters (size-M), internal content, shape, interface, margin, lobulation, spiculation, air cavity, vessel relationship, and pleural retraction were recorded and analyzed. The final pathological diagnoses of the 181 pGGNs comprised 29 benign nodules, 14 AAHs, 25 AISs, 55 MIAs, and 58 IAs. Statistical analysis showed that there were significant differences among the aforementioned five groups with respect to size-L, size-S, and size-M (p = 0.029, 0.043, 0.025, respectively). In the univariate analysis, there were significant differences between the invasive adenocarcinomas and the non-invasive adenocarcinomas with respect to the size-L, size-S, size-M, lobulation, and air cavity (p = 0.009, 0.016, 0.008, 0.031, 0.004, respectively) between the invasive adenocarcinomas and the non-invasive adenocarcinomas. The receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve of size for discriminating invasive adenocarcinoma also revealed similar area under curve (AUC) values among size-L (0.620), size-S (0.614), and size-M (0.623). The cut-off value of 7 mm in size-M had a sensitivity of 50.0% and a specificity of 76.4% for detecting IAs. In the multivariate analysis, the presence of air cavity was a significant predictor of IA (p = 0.042). In conclusion, the possibility of IA is higher in a pGGN when it is associated with a larger size, lobulation, and air cavity. The air cavity is the significant predictor of IA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3945
Issue number16
StatePublished - 02 08 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • CT
  • Ground-glass nodule
  • Invasive adenocarcinoma
  • Non-invasive adenocarcinoma
  • Pre-invasive lesion
  • Predictor


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