A review of methods of analysis in contouring studies for radiation oncology
Inter-observer variability in anatomical contouring is the biggest contributor to uncertainty in radiation treatment planning. Contouring studies are frequently performed to investigate the differences between multiple contours on common datasets. There is, however, no widely accepted method for contour comparisons. The purpose of this study is to review the literature on contouring studies in the context of radiation oncology, with particular consideration of the contouring comparison methods they employ. A literature search, not limited by date, was conducted using Medline and Google Scholar with key words: contour, variation, delineation, inter/intra observer, uncertainty and trial dummy-run. This review includes a description of the contouring processes and contour comparison metrics used. The use of different processes and metrics according to tumour site and other factors were also investigated with limitations described. A total of 69 relevant studies were identified. The most common tumour sites were prostate (26), lung (10), head and neck cancers (8) and breast (7).The most common metric of comparison was volume used 59 times, followed by dimension and shape used 36 times, and centre of volume used 19 times. Of all 69 publications, 67 used a combination of metrics and two used only one metric for comparison. No clear relationships between tumour site or any other factors that may influence the contouring process and the metrics used to compare contours were observed from the literature. Further studies are needed to assess the advantages and disadvantages of each metric in various situations.