Catheter ablation therapy has become increasingly popular for the treatment of left atrial fibrillation. The effect of this treatment on left atrial morphology, however, has not yet been completely quantified. Initial studies have indicated a decrease in left atrial size with a concomitant decrease in pulmonary vein diameter. In order to effectively study if catheter based therapies affect left atrial geometry, robust segmentations with minimal user interaction are required. In this work, we validate a method to semi-automatically segment the left atrium from computed-tomography scans.
The first step of the technique utilizes seeded region growing to extract the entire blood pool including the four chambers of the heart, the pulmonary veins, aorta, superior vena cava, inferior vena cava, and other surrounding structures.
Next, the left atrium and pulmonary veins are separated from the rest of the blood pool using an algorithm that searches for thin connections between user defined points in the volumetric data or on a surface rendering. Finally, pulmonary veins are separated from the left atrium using a three dimensional tracing tool. A single user segmented three datasets three times using both the semi-automatic technique as well as manual tracing.
The user interaction time for the semi-automatic technique was approximately forty-five minutes per dataset and the manual tracing required between four and eight hours per dataset depending on the number of slices. A truth model was generated using a simple voting scheme on the repeated manual segmentations. A second user segmented each of the nine datasets using the semi-automatic technique only. Several metrics were computed to assess the agreement between the semi-automatic technique and the truth model including percent differences in left atrial volume, DICE overlap, and mean distance between the boundaries of the segmented left atria. Overall, the semi-automatic approach was demonstrated to be repeatable within and between raters, and accurate when compared to the truth model. Finally, we generated a visualization to assess the spatial variability in the segmentation errors between the semi-automatic approach and the truth model. The visualization demonstrates the highest errors occur at the boundaries between the left atium and pulmonary veins as well as the left atrium and left atrial appendage.
In conclusion, we describe a semi-automatic approach for left atrial segmentation that demonstrates repeatability and accuracy, with the advantage of significant time reduction in user interaction time.