Model-based image analysis is indispensable in medical image processing. One key aspect of building statistical shape and appearance models is the determination of one-to-one correspondences in the training data set. At the same time, the identification of these correspondences is the most challenging part of such methods. In our earlier work, we developed an alternative method using correspondence probabilities instead of exact one-to-one correspondences for a statistical shape model (Hufnagel et al., 2008). In this work, a new approach for statistical appearance models without one-to-one correspondences is proposed. A sparse image representation is used to build a model that combines point position and appearance information at the same time. Probabilistic correspondences between the derived multi-dimensional feature vectors are used to omit the need for extensive preprocessing of finding landmarks and correspondences as well as to reduce the dependence of the generated model on the landmark positions. Model generation and model fitting can now be expressed by optimizing a single global criterion derived from a maximum a-posteriori (MAP) approach with respect to model parameters that directly affect both shape and appearance of the considered objects inside the images. The proposed approach describes statistical appearance modeling in a concise and flexible mathematical framework. Besides eliminating the demand for costly correspondence determination, the method allows for additional constraints as topological regularity in the modeling process.
In the evaluation the model was applied for segmentation and landmark identification in hand X-ray images. The results demonstrate the feasibility of the model to detect hand contours as well as the positions of the joints between finger bones for unseen test images. Further, we evaluated the model on brain data of stroke patients to show the ability of the proposed model to handle partially corrupted data and to demonstrate a possible employment of the correspondence probabilities to indicate these corrupted/pathological areas.