Respiratory motion affects the alignment of PET and CT volumes from PET/CT examinations in a non-rigid manner. This becomes particularly apparent if reviewing fine anatomical structures such as ribs when assessing bone metastases, which frequently occur in many advanced cancers. To make this routine diagnostic task more efficient, a fused unfolded rib visualization for 18F-NaF PET/CT is presented. It allows to review the whole rib cage in a single image. This advanced visualization is enabled by a novel rib-specific registration algorithm that rigidly optimizes the local alignment of each individual rib in both modalities based on a matched filter response function. More specifically, rib centerlines are automatically extracted from CT and subsequently individually aligned to the corresponding bone-specific PET rib uptake pattern. The proposed method has been validated on 20 PET/CT scans acquired at different clinical sites. It has been demonstrated that the presented rib- specific registration method significantly improves the rib alignment without having to run complex deformable registration algorithms. At the same time, it guarantees that rib lesions are not further deformed, which may otherwise affect quantitative measurements such as SUVs. Considering clinically relevant distance thresholds, the centerline portion with good alignment compared to the ground truth improved from 60:6% to 86:7% after registration while approximately 98% can be still considered as acceptably aligned.
The segmentation of the hepatic vascular tree in computed tomography (CT) images is important for many
applications such as surgical planning of oncological resections and living liver donations. In surgical planning,
vessel segmentation is often used as basis to support the surgeon in the decision about the location of the
cut to be performed and the extent of the liver to be removed, respectively. We present a novel approach to
hepatic vessel segmentation that can be divided into two stages. First, we detect and delineate the core vessel
components efficiently with a high specificity. Second, smaller vessel branches are segmented by a robust vessel
tracking technique based on a medialness filter response, which starts from the terminal points of the previously
segmented vessels. Specifically, in the first phase major vessels are segmented using the globally optimal graphcuts
algorithm in combination with foreground and background seed detection, while the computationally more
demanding tracking approach needs to be applied only locally in areas of smaller vessels within the second stage.
The method has been evaluated on contrast-enhanced liver CT scans from clinical routine showing promising
results. In addition to the fully-automatic instance of this method, the vessel tracking technique can also be used
to easily add missing branches/sub-trees to an already existing segmentation result by adding single seed-points.
Pulmonary vascular tree segmentation has numerous applications in medical imaging and computer-aided diagnosis (CAD), including detection and visualization of pulmonary emboli (PE), improved lung nodule detection, and quantitative vessel analysis. We present a novel approach to pulmonary vessel segmentation based on a fuzzy segmentation concept, combining the strengths of both threshold and seed point based methods. The lungs of the original image are first segmented and a threshold-based approach identifies core vessel components with a high specificity. These components are then used to automatically identify reliable seed points for a fuzzy seed point based segmentation method, namely fuzzy connectedness. The output of the method consists of the probability of each voxel belonging to the vascular tree. Hence, our method provides the possibility to adjust the sensitivity/specificity of the segmentation result a posteriori according to application-specific requirements, through definition of a minimum vessel-probability required to classify a voxel as belonging to the vascular tree. The method has been evaluated on contrast-enhanced thoracic CT scans from clinical PE cases and demonstrates overall promising results. For quantitative validation we compare the segmentation results to randomly selected, semi-automatically segmented sub-volumes and present the resulting receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves. Although we focus on contrast enhanced chest CT data, the method can be generalized to other regions of the body as well as to different imaging modalities.
Tree matching methods have numerous applications in medical imaging, including registration, anatomical labeling, segmentation, and navigation of structures such as vessels and airway trees. Typical methods for tree matching rely on conventional graph matching techniques and therefore suffer potential limitations such as sensitivity to the accuracy of the extracted tree structures, as well as dependence on the initial alignment. We present a novel path-based tree matching framework independent of graph matching. It is based on a point-by-point feature comparison of complete paths rather than branch points, and consequently is relatively unaffected by spurious airways and/or missing branches. A matching matrix is used to enforce one-to-one matching. Moreover our method can reliably match irregular tree structures, resulting from imperfect segmentation and centerline extraction. Also reflecting the nature of these features, our method does not require a precise alignment or registration of tree structures. To test our method we used two thoracic CT scans from each of ten patients, with a median inter-scan interval of 3 months (range 0.5 to 10 months). The bronchial tree structure was automatically extracted from each scan and a ground truth of matching paths was established between each pair of tree structures. Overall 87% of 702 airway paths (average 35.1 per patient matched both ways) were correctly matched using this technique. Based on this success we also present preliminary results of airway-to-artery matching using our proposed methodology.