© 2016 The Author(s). Background: Accurate segmentation of blood vessels plays an important role in the computer-aided diagnosis and interventional treatment of vascular diseases. The statistical method is an important component of effective vessel segmentation; however, several limitations discourage the segmentation effect, i.e., dependence of the image modality, uneven contrast media, bias field, and overlapping intensity distribution of the object and background. In addition, the mixture models of the statistical methods are constructed relaying on the characteristics of the image histograms. Thus, it is a challenging issue for the traditional methods to be available in vessel segmentation from multi-modality angiographic images. Methods: To overcome these limitations, a flexible segmentation method with a fixed mixture model has been proposed for various angiography modalities. Our method mainly consists of three parts. Firstly, multi-scale filtering algorithm was used on the original images to enhance vessels and suppress noises. As a result, the filtered data achieved a new statistical characteristic. Secondly, a mixture model formed by three probabilistic distributions (two Exponential distributions and one Gaussian distribution) was built to fit the histogram curve of the filtered data, where the expectation maximization (EM) algorithm was used for parameters estimation. Finally, three-dimensional (3D) Markov random field (MRF) were employed to improve the accuracy of pixel-wise classification and posterior probability estimation. To quantitatively evaluate the performance of the proposed method, two phantoms simulating blood vessels with different tubular structures and noises have been devised. Meanwhile, four clinical angiographic data sets from different human organs have been used to qualitatively validate the method. To further test the performance, comparison tests between the proposed method and the traditional ones have been conducted on two different brain magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) data sets. Results: The results of the phantoms were satisfying, e.g., the noise was greatly suppressed, the percentages of the misclassified voxels, i.e., the segmentation error ratios, were no more than 0.3%, and the Dice similarity coefficients (DSCs) were above 94%. According to the opinions of clinical vascular specialists, the vessels in various data sets were extracted with high accuracy since complete vessel trees were extracted while lesser non-vessels and background were falsely classified as vessel. In the comparison experiments, the proposed method showed its superiority in accuracy and robustness for extracting vascular structures from multi-modality angiographic images with complicated background noises. Conclusions: The experimental results demonstrated that our proposed method was available for various angiographic data. The main reason was that the constructed mixture probability model could unitarily classify vessel object from the multi-scale filtered data of various angiography images. The advantages of the proposed method lie in the following aspects: firstly, it can extract the vessels with poor angiography quality, since the multi-scale filtering algorithm can improve the vessel intensity in the circumstance such as uneven contrast media and bias field; secondly, it performed well for extracting the vessels in multi-modality angiographic images despite various signal-noises; and thirdly, it was implemented with better accuracy, and robustness than the traditional methods. Generally, these traits declare that the proposed method would have significant clinical application.
Lu, P., Xia, J., Li, Z., Xiong, J., Yang, J., Zhou, S., … Wang, C. (2016). A vessel segmentation method for multi-modality angiographic images based on multi-scale filtering and statistical models. BioMedical Engineering Online, 15(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12938-016-0241-7