Lung diseases are common and among the most important causes of death. In 2020, it is expected that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third cause of death, after heart disease and stroke. Respiratory infections will be the fourth cause of death worldwide, followed by lung cancer, the most deadly cancer. Tuberculosis will rank seven on this list. There are many other diseases of the lung, such as interstitial lung disease, occupational lung disease and cystic fibrosis.
For all these diseases, imaging is vital to learn more about their nature, to detect them early and to follow up on their course and treatment. The chest x-ray is by far the most common radiological exam. In the United States alone, more than 100 million chest exams are made every year, totaling almost half of all radiographic and fluoroscopic procedures. Computed tomography (CT) is the best way to image the lungs of a living person. More than 10 million chest CTs are obtained in the US every year, over 15% of all CT examinations.
Research in DIAG focuses both on the analysis of chest x-ray and chest CT. For x-ray we are developing tools to detect tuberculosis and lung cancer, and work on algorithms to remove normal anatomical structures from the radiographs and to detect changes between baseline and follow-up exams. For CT we are working on computer-aided detection of nodules, which can be small lung tumors, and we have developed a toolkit for analysis of the lungs, the lobes, airways and vessel trees. With these techniques that are used in many clinical research projects, we are quantifying different aspects of various lung diseases. More details can be found in the project descriptions below.