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Background: Cephalometric radiography has been used for orthodontic and surgical treatment planning and assessment, and for quantifying mandibular growth. However, it remains unclear how head positioning errors and the level of examiner experience affect the reliability of such morphometric measurements. The current study aimed to bridge the gap by determining the intra-, inter-rater, and inter-session reliability of measurements of mandibular morphology with random head positioning errors as measured by a junior and a senior dentist. Methods: Cone-beam computed tomography data of twelve mandibles were obtained with each rotated randomly away from the neutral position within the range of +3 and -3° along each of the anatomical axes to simulate six imaging trials. A synthetic cephalogram for each trial was obtained via a digitally reconstructed radiography (DRR) technique and eleven landmarks for twelve morphological parameters on the cephalogram were identified manually six times by a junior and a senior dentist. The procedure was repeated on another day within 5 days. Test-retest reliability was assessed in terms of an intra-class correlation coefficient (ICC) using a two-way mixed-effects model. Results: Good to very good intra-rater (senior: ICC > 0.92; junior: ICC > 0.78), inter-rater (ICC > 0.70 for most parameters) and inter-session reliability (senior: ICC > 0.84; junior: ICC > 0.62) were found. Bland & Altman plots of inter-rater comparisons show that there were systematical biases between the examiners on most parameters, except for the distance between Gonion and Pogonion. Conclusions: The current results suggest that good to very good intra-rater, inter-rater and inter-session reliability can be achieved for most parameters with randomized head positioning errors; higher inter-session reliability can be achieved by more experienced examiners; and that long-term monitoring of mandibular growth based on cephalographic measurements should be made by the same more experienced examiner. The current DRR-based approach can be used to evaluate individual factors that affect the morphological measurements.
Lin, H. S., Chen, Y. J., Lu, H. L., Lu, T. W., & Chen, C. C. (2017). Test-retest reliability of mandibular morphology measurements on cone-beam computed tomography-synthesized cephalograms with random head positioning errors. BioMedical Engineering Online, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12938-017-0353-8