3D reconstruction of a carotid bifurcation from 2D transversal ultrasound images

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Visualizing and analyzing the morphological structure of carotid bifurcations are important for understanding the etiology of carotid atherosclerosis, which is a major cause of stroke and transient ischemic attack. For delineation of vasculatures in the carotid artery, ultrasound examinations have been widely employed because of a noninvasive procedure without ionizing radiation. However, conventional 2D ultrasound imaging has technical limitations in observing the complicated 3D shapes and asymmetric vasodilation of bifurcations. This study aims to propose image-processing techniques for better 3D reconstruction of a carotid bifurcation in a rat by using 2D cross-sectional ultrasound images. A high-resolution ultrasound imaging system with a probe centered at 40 MHz was employed to obtain 2D transversal images. The lumen boundaries in each transverse ultrasound image were detected by using three different techniques; an ellipse-fitting, a correlation mapping to visualize the decorrelation of blood flow, and the ellipse-fitting on the correlation map. When the results are compared, the third technique provides relatively good boundary extraction. The incomplete boundaries of arterial lumen caused by acoustic artifacts are somewhat resolved by adopting the correlation mapping and the distortion in the boundary detection near the bifurcation apex was largely reduced by using the ellipse-fitting technique. The 3D lumen geometry of a carotid artery was obtained by volumetric rendering of several 2D slices. For the 3D vasodilatation of the carotid bifurcation, lumen geometries at the contraction and expansion states were simultaneously depicted at various view angles. The present 3D reconstruction methods would be useful for efficient extraction and construction of the 3D lumen geometries of carotid bifurcations from 2D ultrasound images.

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