The spatial accuracy of deformable image registration (DIR) is important in the implementation of image guided adaptive radiotherapy techniques for cancer in the pelvic region. Validation of algorithms is best performed on phantoms with fiducial markers undergoing controlled large deformations. Excised porcine bladders, exhibiting similar filling and voiding behavior as human bladders, provide such an environment. The aim of this study was to determine the spatial accuracy of different DIR algorithms on CT images of ex vivo porcine bladders with radiopaque fiducial markers applied to the outer surface, for a range of bladder volumes, using various accuracy metrics.Methods:
Five excised porcine bladders with a grid of 30-40 radiopaque fiducial markers attached to the outer wall were suspended inside a water-filled phantom. The bladder was filled with a controlled amount of water with added contrast medium for a range of filling volumes (100-400 ml in steps of 50 ml) using a luer lock syringe, and CT scans were acquired at each filling volume. DIR was performed for each data set, with the 100 ml bladder as the reference image. Six intensity-based algorithms (optical flow or demons-based) implemented in the MATLAB platform DIRART, a b-spline algorithm implemented in the commercial software package VelocityAI, and a structure-based algorithm (Symmetric Thin Plate Spline Robust Point Matching) were validated, using adequate parameter settings according to values previously published. The resulting deformation vector field from each registration was applied to the contoured bladder structures and to the marker coordinates for spatial error calculation. The quality of the algorithms was assessed by comparing the different error metrics across the different algorithms, and by comparing the effect of deformation magnitude (bladder volume difference) per algorithm, using the Independent Samples Kruskal-Wallis test.Results:
The authors found good structure accuracy without dependency on bladder volume difference for all but one algorithm, and with the best result for the structure-based algorithm. Spatial accuracy as assessed from marker errors was disappointing for all algorithms, especially for large volume differences, implying that the deformations described by the registration did not represent anatomically correct deformations. The structure-based algorithm performed the best in terms of marker error for the large volume difference (100-400 ml). In general, for the small volume difference (100-150 ml) the algorithms performed relatively similarly. The structure-based algorithm exhibited the best balance in performance between small and large volume differences, and among the intensity-based algorithms, the algorithm implemented in VelocityAI exhibited the best balance.Conclusions:
Validation of multiple DIR algorithms on a novel physiological bladder phantom revealed that the structure accuracy was good for most algorithms, but that the spatial accuracy as assessed from markers was low for all algorithms, especially for large deformations. Hence, many of the available algorithms exhibit sufficient accuracy for contour propagation purposes, but possibly not for accurate dose accumulation.