We study the effects of noise in scanning electron microscope (SEM) images on the size and roughness of contact holes when they are measured using top-down SEM images. The applied methodology is based on the generation of synthesized top-down SEM images, including several model contact edges with controlled roughness, critical dimension (CD) uniformity, and noise. The sources of image noise can be the shot noise of SEM electron beams and microscope electronics. The results show that noise reduces CD and correlation length while it increases the rms value of contact edge roughness (CER). CD variation is increased with noise in images with smooth and identical contacts, whereas it remains almost unaltered in images including rough contacts with CD nonuniformity. Furthermore, we find that the application of a noise-smoothing filter before image analysis rectifies the values of CD (at small filter parameter) and of rms and correlation length (at larger filter parameters), whereas it leads to marginally larger deviations from the true values of CD variation. Quantitative assessment of the model predictions reveals that the noise-induced variations of CD and CER values are less important compared with those caused by process stochasticity and material inhomogeneities.