Learning-based automated segmentation of the carotid artery vessel wall in dual-sequence MRI using subdivision surface fitting

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Purpose:The quantification of vessel wall morphology and plaque burden requires vessel segmentation, which is generally performed by manual delineations. The purpose of our work is to develop and evaluate a new 3D model-based approach for carotid artery wall segmentation from dual-sequence MRI.Methods:The proposed method segments the lumen and outer wall surfaces including the bifurcation region by fitting a subdivision surface constructed hierarchical-tree model to the image data. In particular, a hybrid segmentation which combines deformable model fitting with boundary classification was applied to extract the lumen surface. The 3D model ensures the correct shape and topology of the carotid artery, while the boundary classification uses combined image information of 3D TOF-MRA and 3D BB-MRI to promote accurate delineation of the lumen boundaries. The proposed algorithm was validated on 25 subjects (48 arteries) including both healthy volunteers and atherosclerotic patients with 30% to 70% carotid stenosis.Results:For both lumen and outer wall border detection, our result shows good agreement between manually and automatically determined contours, with contour-to-contour distance less than 1 pixel as well as Dice overlap greater than 0.87 at all different carotid artery sections.Conclusions:The presented 3D segmentation technique has demonstrated the capability of providing vessel wall delineation for 3D carotid MRI data with high accuracy and limited user interaction. This brings benefits to large-scale patient studies for assessing the effect of pharmacological treatment of atherosclerosis by reducing image analysis time and bias between human observers.

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