Automated three-dimensional registration of high-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography data to quantify size and shape changes of arthritic bone erosions

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Objective. To monitor size and shape changes of bone erosions and changes in BMD in the vicinity of the erosion and in the periarticular trabecular compartment of patients with RA using high-resolution peripheral quantitative CT (HR-pQCT) imaging and to compare an automated three-dimensional (3D) image processing technique with manual measurements of erosion width and depth.

Methods. The shape of 40 bone erosions and composition of bone around the erosions were analysed in the MCP joints of 22 RA patients both manually and by semi-automated 3D image processing at two different time points. Periosteal segmentation was performed using volume growing and morphological operations. Image registration was applied for transfer of baseline segmentations to follow-up datasets.

Results. Eight erosions decreased in size, 6 increased and 28 remained stable. Increasing erosions were more spherical and smaller at baseline compared with decreasing or stable erosions. BMD in the vicinity of shrinking erosions increased, while it decreased next to expanding erosions. There was moderate agreement in the determination of erosion volume between semi-automated and manual measurements, but agreement was poor when assessing changes in volume over time.

Conclusion. Longitudinal changes in erosion size and shape and of BMD in the vicinity of an erosion can be measured. BMD changes are associated with progression and regression of erosions. However, the semi-automated and manual approaches did not classify longitudinal changes of erosion volume in the same way. Further research is necessary to define the nature of these differences.

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