Methods: The study involved 35 transilliac bone biopsy samples imaged on extremity CBCT (voxel size 75 μm, imaging dose ~13 mGy) and gold standard μCT (voxel size 7.67 μm). CBCT image segmentation was performed using (i) global Otsu’s thresholding, (ii) Bernsen’s local thresholding, (iii) Bernsen’s local thresholding with additional histogram-based global pre-thresholding, and (iv) the same as (iii) but combined with contrast enhancement using a Laplacian Pyramid. Correlations between extremity CBCT with the different segmentation algorithms and gold standard μCT were investigated for measurements of Bone Volume over Total Volume (BV/TV), Trabecular Thickness (Tb.Th), Trabecular Spacing (Tb.Sp), and Trabecular Number (Tb.N).
Results: The combination of local thresholding with global pre-thresholding and Laplacian contrast enhancement outperformed other CBCT segmentation methods. Using this optimal segmentation scheme, strong correlation between extremity CBCT and μCT was achieved, with Pearson coefficients of 0.93 for BV/TV, 0.89 for Tb.Th, 0.91 for Tb.Sp, and 0.88 for Tb.N (all results statistically significant). Compared to a simple global CBCT segmentation using Otsu’s algorithm, the advanced segmentation method achieved ~20% improvement in the correlation coefficient for Tb.Th and ~50% improvement for Tb.Sp.
Conclusions: Extremity CBCT combined with advanced image pre-processing and segmentation achieves high correlation with gold standard μCT in measurements of trabecular microstructure. This motivates ongoing development of clinical applications of extremity CBCT in in-vivo evaluation of bone health e.g. in early osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.