PURPOSE: In scoliosis monitoring, tracked ultrasound has been explored as a safer imaging alternative to traditional radiography. The use of ultrasound in spinal curvature measurement requires identification of vertebral landmarks such as transverse processes, but as bones have reduced visibility in ultrasound imaging, skeletal landmarks are typically segmented manually, which is an exceedingly laborious and long process. We propose an automatic algorithm to segment and localize the surface of bony areas in the transverse process for scoliosis in ultrasound.
METHODS: The algorithm uses cascade of filters to remove low intensity pixels, smooth the image and detect bony edges. By applying first differentiation, candidate bony areas are classified. The average intensity under each area has a correlation with the possibility of a shadow, and areas with strong shadow are kept for bone segmentation. The segmented images are used to reconstruct a 3-D volume to represent the whole spinal structure around the transverse processes. RESULTS: A comparison between the manual ground truth segmentation and the automatic algorithm in 50 images showed 0.17 mm average difference. The time to process all 1,938 images was about 37 Sec. (0.0191 Sec. / Image), including reading the original sequence file.
CONCLUSION: Initial experiments showed the algorithm to be sufficiently accurate and fast for segmentation transverse processes in ultrasound for spinal curvature measurement. An extensive evaluation of the method is currently underway on images from a larger patient cohort and using multiple observers in producing ground truth segmentation.
Tracked ultrasound is a safe alternative to X-ray for imaging bones. The interpretation of bony structures is challenging as ultrasound has no specific intensity characteristic of bones. Several image segmentation algorithms have been devised to identify bony structures. We propose an open-source framework that would aid in the development and comparison of such algorithms by quantitatively measuring segmentation performance in the ultrasound images. True-positive and false-negative metrics used in the framework quantify algorithm performance based on correctly segmented bone and correctly segmented boneless regions. Ground-truth for these metrics are defined manually and along with the corresponding automatically segmented image are used for the performance analysis. Manually created ground truth tests were generated to verify the accuracy of the analysis. Further evaluation metrics for determining average performance per slide and standard deviation are considered. The metrics provide a means of evaluating accuracy of frames along the length of a volume. This would aid in assessing the accuracy of the volume itself and the approach to image acquisition (positioning and frequency of frame). The framework was implemented as an open-source module of the 3D Slicer platform. The ground truth tests verified that the framework correctly calculates the implemented metrics. The developed framework provides a convenient way to evaluate bone segmentation algorithms. The implementation fits in a widely used application for segmentation algorithm prototyping. Future algorithm development will benefit by monitoring the effects of adjustments to an algorithm in a standard evaluation framework.