Automated Identification and Localization of the Inferior Vena Cava Using Ultrasound: An Animal Study

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Ultrasound measurement of the inferior vena cava (IVC) is widely implemented in the clinic. However, the process is time consuming and labor intensive, because the IVC diameter is continuously changing with respiration. In addition, artificial errors and intra-operator variations are always considerable, making the measurement inconsistent. Research efforts were recently devoted to developing semiautomated methods. But most required an initial identification of the IVC manually. As a first step toward fully automated IVC measurement, in this paper, we present an intelligent technique for automated IVC identification and localization. Forty-eight ultrasound data sets were collected from eight pigs, each of which included two frames in B-mode and color mode (C-mode) collected at the inspiration, and two cine loops in B-mode and C-mode. Static and dynamic automation algorithms were applied to the data sets for identifying and localizing the IVC. The results were evaluated by comparing with the manual measurement of experienced clinicians. The automated approaches successfully identified the IVC in 47 cases (success rate: 97.9%). The automated localization of the IVC is close to the manual counterpart, with the difference within one diameter. The automatically measured diameters are close to those measured manually, with most differences below 15%. It is revealed that the proposed method can automatically identify the IVC with high success rate and localize the IVC with high accuracy. But the study with high accuracy was conducted under good control and without considering difficult cases, which deserve future explorations. The method is a first step toward fully automated IVC measurement, which is suitable for point-of-care applications.

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