A robust framework for medical image segmentation through adaptable class-specific representation
Medical image segmentation is an increasingly important component in virtual pathology, diagnostic imaging and computer-assisted surgery. Better hard\vare for image acquisition and a variety of advanced visualisation methods have paved the way for the development of computer based tools for medical image analysis and interpretation. The routine use of medical imaging scans of multiple modalities has been growing over the last decades and data sets such as the Visible Human Project have introduced a new modality in the form of colour cryo section data. These developments have given rise to an increasing need for better automatic and semiautomatic segmentation methods. The work presented in this thesis concerns the development of a new framework for robust semi-automatic segmentation of medical imaging data of multiple modalities. Following the specification of a set of conceptual and technical requirements, the framework known as ACSR (Adaptable ClassSpecific Representation) is developed in the first case for 2D colour cryo section segmentation. This is achieved through the development of a novel algorithm for adaptable class-specific sampling of point neighbourhoods, known as the PGA (Path Growing Algorithm), combined with Learning Vector Quantization. The framework is extended to accommodate 3D volume segmentation of cryo section data and subsequently segmentation of single and multi-channel greyscale MRl data. For the latter the issues of inhomogeneity and noise are specifically addressed. Evaluation is based on comparison with previously published results on standard simulated and real data sets, using visual presentation, ground truth comparison and human observer experiments. ACSR provides the user with a simple and intuitive visual initialisation process followed by a fully automatic segmentation. Results on both cryo section and MRI data compare favourably to existing methods, demonstrating robustness both to common artefacts and multiple user initialisations. Further developments into specific clinical applications are discussed in the future work section.