Quantification of photoacoustic (PA) images is one of the major challenges currently being addressed in PA research. Tissue properties can be quantified by correcting the recorded PA signal with an estimation of the corresponding fluence. Fluence estimation itself, however, is an ill-posed inverse problem which usually needs simplifying assumptions to be solved with state-of-the-art methods. These simplifications, as well as noise and artifacts in PA images reduce the accuracy of quantitative PA imaging (PAI). This reduction in accuracy is often localized to image regions where the assumptions do not hold true. This impedes the reconstruction of functional parameters when averaging over entire regions of interest (ROI). Averaging over a subset of voxels with a high accuracy would lead to an improved estimation of such parameters. To achieve this, we propose a novel approach to the local estimation of confidence in quantitative reconstructions of PA images. It makes use of conditional probability densities to estimate confidence intervals alongside the actual quantification. It encapsulates an estimation of the errors introduced by fluence estimation as well as signal noise. We validate the approach using Monte Carlo generated data in combination with a recently introduced machine learning-based approach to quantitative PAI. Our experiments show at least a two-fold improvement in quantification accuracy when evaluating on voxels with high confidence instead of thresholding signal intensity.
Janek Gröhl, Thomas Kirchner, and Lena Maier-Hein, "Confidence estimation for quantitative photoacoustic imaging," Proc. SPIE 10494, Photons Plus Ultrasound: Imaging and Sensing 2018, 104941C (Presented at SPIE BiOS: January 29, 2018; Published: 19 February 2018); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2288362.
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