A block matching based approach with multiple simultaneous templates for the real-time 2D ultrasound tracking of liver vessels

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The implementation of motion management techniques in radiation therapy can aid in mitigating uncertainties and reducing margins. For motion management to be effective, it is necessary to track key structures both accurately and at a real-time speed. Therefore, the focus of this work was to develop a 2D algorithm for the real-time tracking of ultrasound features to aid in radiation therapy motion management.

Materials and Methods:

The developed algorithm utilized a similarity measure-based block matching algorithm incorporating training methods and multiple simultaneous templates. The algorithm is broken down into three primary components, all of which use normalized cross-correlation (NCC) as a similarity metric. First, a global feature shift to account for gross displacements from the previous frame is determined using large block sizes which encompass the entirety of the feature. Second, the most similar reference frame is chosen from a series of training images that are accumulated during the first K frames of tracking to aid in contour consistency and provide a starting point for the localized template initialization. Finally, localized block matching is performed through the simultaneous use of both a training frame and the previous frame. The localized block matching utilizes a series of templates positioned at the boundary points of the training and previous contours. The weighted final boundary points from both the previous and the training frame are ultimately combined and used to determine an affine transformation from the previous frame to the current frame.


A mean tracking error of 0.72 ± 1.25 mm was observed for 85 point-landmarks across 39 ultrasound sequences relative to manual ground truth annotations. The image processing speed per landmark with the GPU implementation was between 41 and 165 frames per second (fps) during the training set accumulation, and between 73 and 234 fps after training set accumulation. Relative to a comparable multithreaded CPU approach using OpenMP, the GPU implementation resulted in speedups between −30% and 355% during training set accumulation, and between −37% and 639% postaccumulation.


Initial implementations indicated an accuracy that was comparable to or exceeding those achieved by alternative 2D tracking methods, with a computational speed that is more than sufficient for real-time applications in a radiation therapy environment. While the overall performance reached levels suitable for implementation in radiation therapy, the observed increase in failures for smaller features, as well as the algorithm's inability to be applied to nonconvex features warrants additional investigation to address the shortcomings observed.

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