Spectral embedding based active contour (SEAC) for lesion segmentation on breast dynamic contrast enhanced magnetic resonance imaging.

Medical Physics

PubMedID: 23464337

Agner SC, Xu J, Madabhushi A. Spectral embedding based active contour (SEAC) for lesion segmentation on breast dynamic contrast enhanced magnetic resonance imaging. Med Phys. 2013;40(3):032305.
PURPOSE
Segmentation of breast lesions on dynamic contrast enhanced (DCE) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the first step in lesion diagnosis in a computer-aided diagnosis framework. Because manual segmentation of such lesions is both time consuming and highly susceptible to human error and issues of reproducibility, an automated lesion segmentation method is highly desirable. Traditional automated image segmentation methods such as boundary-based active contour (AC) models require a strong gradient at the lesion boundary. Even when region-based terms are introduced to an AC model, grayscale image intensities often do not allow for clear definition of foreground and background region statistics. Thus, there is a need to find alternative image representations that might provide (1) strong gradients at the margin of the object of interest (OOI); and (2) larger separation between intensity distributions and region statistics for the foreground and background, which are necessary to halt evolution of the AC model upon reaching the border of the OOI.

METHODS
In this paper, the authors introduce a spectral embedding (SE) based AC (SEAC) for lesion segmentation on breast DCE-MRI. SE, a nonlinear dimensionality reduction scheme, is applied to the DCE time series in a voxelwise fashion to reduce several time point images to a single parametric image where every voxel is characterized by the three dominant eigenvectors. This parametric eigenvector image (PrEIm) representation allows for better capture of image region statistics and stronger gradients for use with a hybrid AC model, which is driven by both boundary and region information. They compare SEAC to ACs that employ fuzzy c-means (FCM) and principal component analysis (PCA) as alternative image representations. Segmentation performance was evaluated by boundary and region metrics as well as comparing lesion classification using morphological features from SEAC, PCA+AC, and FCM+AC.

RESULTS
On a cohort of 50 breast DCE-MRI studies, PrEIm yielded overall better region and boundary-based statistics compared to the original DCE-MR image, FCM, and PCA based image representations. Additionally, SEAC outperformed a hybrid AC applied to both PCA and FCM image representations. Mean dice similarity coefficient (DSC) for SEAC was significantly better (DSC = 0.74 ± 0.21) than FCM+AC (DSC = 0.50 ± 0.32) and similar to PCA+AC (DSC = 0.73 ± 0.22). Boundary-based metrics of mean absolute difference and Hausdorff distance followed the same trends. Of the automated segmentation methods, breast lesion classification based on morphologic features derived from SEAC segmentation using a support vector machine classifier also performed better (AUC = 0.67 ± 0.05; p < 0.05) than FCM+AC (AUC = 0.50 ± 0.07), and PCA+AC (AUC = 0.49 ± 0.07).

CONCLUSIONS
In this work, we presented SEAC, an accurate, general purpose AC segmentation tool that could be applied to any imaging domain that employs time series data. SE allows for projection of time series data into a PrEIm representation so that every voxel is characterized by the dominant eigenvectors, capturing the global and local time-intensity curve similarities in the data. This PrEIm allows for the calculation of strong tensor gradients and better region statistics than the original image intensities or alternative image representations such as PCA and FCM. The PrEIm also allows for building a more accurate hybrid AC scheme.