Quantitative imaging and image processing
Generic and robust method for automatic segmentation of PET images using an active contour model
Although positron emission tomography (PET) images have shown potential to improve the accuracy of targeting in radiation therapy planning and assessment of response to treatment, the boundaries of tumors are not easily distinguishable from surrounding normal tissue owing to the low spatial resolution and inherent noisy characteristics of PET images. The objective of this study is to develop a generic and robust method for automatic delineation of tumor volumes using an active contour model and to evaluate its performance using phantom and clinical studies.
MASAC, a method for automatic segmentation using an active contour model, incorporates the histogram fuzzy C-means clustering, and localized and textural information to constrain the active contour to detect boundaries in an accurate and robust manner. Moreover, the lattice Boltzmann method is used as an alternative approach for solving the level set equation to make it faster and suitable for parallel programming. Twenty simulated phantom studies and 16 clinical studies, including six cases of pharyngolaryngeal squamous cell carcinoma and ten cases of nonsmall cell lung cancer, were included to evaluate its performance. Besides, the proposed method was also compared with the contourlet-based active contour algorithm (CAC) and Schaefer's thresholding method (ST). The relative volume error (RE), Dice similarity coefficient (DSC), and classification error (CE) metrics were used to analyze the results quantitatively.
For the simulated phantom studies (PSs), MASAC and CAC provide similar segmentations of the different lesions, while ST fails to achieve reliable results. For the clinical datasets (2 cases with connected high-uptake regions excluded) (CSs), CAC provides for the lowest mean RE (−8.38% ± 27.49%), while MASAC achieves the best mean DSC (0.71 ± 0.09) and mean CE (53.92% ± 12.65%), respectively. MASAC could reliably quantify different types of lesions assessed in this work with good accuracy, resulting in a mean RE of −13.35% ± 11.87% and −11.15% ± 23.66%, a mean DSC of 0.89 ± 0.05 and 0.71 ± 0.09, and a mean CE of 19.19% ± 7.89% and 53.92% ± 12.65%, for PSs and CSs, respectively.
The authors’ results demonstrate that the developed novel PET segmentation algorithm is applicable to various types of lesions in the authors’ study and is capable of producing accurate and consistent target volume delineations, potentially resulting in reduced intraobserver and interobserver variabilities observed when using manual delineation and improved accuracy in treatment planning and outcome evaluation.