Impact of colorized display of mammograms on lesion detection
Objective: To assess the effect of the colorized display of digital mammograms on observer detection of subtle breast lesions. Methods: Three separate observer studies compared detection performance using grayscale versus color display of 1) low-contrast mass-like objects in a standardized mammography phantom; 2) simulated microcalcifications in a background of normal breast parenchyma; and 3) standard-of-care clinical digital mammograms with subtle calcifications and masses. Colorization of the images was done by displaying each image pixel in blue, green, and red hues, or gray, maintaining DICOM-calibrated luminance scale and consistent luminance range. For the simulated calcifications and clinical mammogram studies, comparison of detection rates was computed using McNemar's test for paired differences. Results: For the phantom study, mass-like object detection was significantly better using a green colormap than grayscale (73.3% vs 70.8%, P = .009), with no significant improvement using blue or red colormaps (72.6% and 72.5%, respectively). For simulated microcalcifications, no significant difference was noted in detection using the green colormap, as compared with grayscale. For clinical digital screening mammograms, no significant difference was noted between gray and green colormaps for detection of microcalcifications. Green color display, however, resulted in decreased sensitivity for detection of subtle masses (63% vs 69%, P = .03). Conclusion: Although modest improvement was demonstrated for a detection task using colorized display of a standard mammography phantom, no significant improvement was demonstrated using a color display for a simulated clinical detection task, and actual clinical performance was worse for colorized display of mammograms in comparison to standard grayscale display.