Similarity models for atlas-based segmentation of whole-body MRI volumes
Abstract: In order to analyse body composition of MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) volumes, atlas-based segmentation is often used to retrieve information from specific organs or anatomical regions. The method behind this technique is to use an already segmented image volume, an atlas, to segment a target image volume by registering the volumes to each other. During this registration a deformation field will be calculated, which is applied to a segmented part of the atlas, resulting in the same anatomical segmentation in the target. The drawback with this method is that the quality of the segmentation is highly dependent on the similarity between the target and the atlas, which means that many atlases are needed to obtain good segmentation results in large sets of MRI volumes. One potential solution to overcome this problem is to create the deformation field between a target and an atlas as a sequence of small deformations between more similar bodies. In this master thesis a new method for atlas-based segmentation has been developed, with the anticipation of obtaining good segmentation results regardless of the level of similarity between the target and the atlas. In order to do so, 4000 MRI volumes were used to create a manifold of human bodies, which represented a large variety of different body types. These MRI volumes were compared to each other and the calculated similarities were saved in matrices called similarity models. Three different similarity measures were used to create the models which resulted in three different versions of the model. In order to test the hypothesis of achieving good segmentation results when the deformation field was constructed as a sequence of small deformations, the similarity models were used to find the shortest path (the path with the least dissimilarity) between a target and an atlas in the manifold. In order to evaluate the constructed similarity models, three MRI volumes were chosen as atlases and 100 MRI volumes were randomly picked to be used as targets. The shortest paths between these volumes were used to create the deformation fields as a sequence of small deformations. The created fields were then used to segment the anatomical regions ASAT (abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue), LPT (left posterior thigh) and VAT (visceral adipose tissue). The segmentation performance was measured with Dice Index, where segmentations constructed at AMRA Medical AB were used as ground truth. In order to put the results in relation to another segmentation method, direct deformation fields between the targets and the atlases were also created and the segmentation results were compared to the ground truth with the Dice Index. Two different types of transformation methods, one non-parametric and one affine transformation, were used to create the deformation fields in this master thesis. The evaluation showed that good segmentation results can be achieved for the segmentation of VAT for one of the constructed similarity models. These results were obtained when a non-parametric registration method was used to create the deformation fields. In order to achieve similar results for an affine registration and to improve the segmentation of other anatomical regions, further investigations are needed.
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