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# A Hybrid Segmentation Method using MRF and GVF Snakes

**Alexander Rukletsov*, Reinhard Männer Institute for Computational Medicine, University of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Germany
**

ABSTRACT

In this paper a hybrid method for segmentation of 2-D medical images of human organs is proposed. To capture object's global properties the Markov random fields (MRFs) are involved. The result of the MRF segmentation is used to recalculate gradient vector flow based snake external forces in a further snake progression step. A MRF MAP solution is estimated using the MMD algorithm. To reduce the computation time, MRF estimation is restricted only to sites, where the state uncertainty is higher than some threshold value. Tests on MR slices and ultrasound images of the left ventricle of the human heart are reported. Keywords: Medical image segmentation, Markov random fields, active contour models, gradient vector flow.

1. INTRODUCTION

Image segmentation is one of the most important tasks in computer vision. The role of segmentation algorithms in contemporary medical applications steadily increases due to their relevance in diagnostics, surgical procedures, image understanding. Though a wide variety of segmentation techniques has been proposed in the last decades, there is no general algorithm that can be successfully applied in medical imaging in general case due to specific shapes of anatomical objects and properties of imaging techniques like MRI, CT and ultrasound (US). In this paper a problem of segmentation of a single closed anatomical object from MRI or US images using a seed contour is considered. A survey on classical image segmentation approaches can be found in [1]. A more recent review, focusing mainly on segmentation of medical B-mode ultrasound images, both 2-D and 3-D, is given in [2]. Most of the segmentation methods used in medical imaging can be divided into two classes: region-based and edge-based. Common examples of region-based methods are classical region growing [3], Mumford-Shah models [4], [14] and MRF-based algorithms [5], [6], [7]. Deformable models are among the most widely used edge-base methods [8]. Active contour models, or snakes were proposed in [9]. They were revisited and modified by other authors, thus leading to the improvements of the snake algorithm, such as Balloon snakes [10], gradient vector flow (GVF) snakes [11], and to the rise of new classes of deformable models (geometric [12] and geodesic [13], [14] active contours). Despite the fact that the techniques mentioned above are well-known and widely used, they have some drawbacks. For instance, the edge-based methods usually tend to over-smooth boundaries and are sensitive to noise, while the region-based methods can generate holes inside the target objects and the boundaries obtained from these methods rarely resemble shapes of anatomical structures. However, various image segmentation approaches coupling MRF and deformable models have been presented in the literature. In [15] a graphical model theory is used to integrate MRF and active contours. Similar approaches, but for 3-D case are described in [16], [17]. Available texture information can be exploited in some cases (e.g. see [18], [19]) to detect textured regions more precisely. In [20] a hybrid approach to the segmentation of the human liver from CT scans is reported. A MRF model is used there to determine an initial liver boundary, which is then refined using the GVF snake. In this paper a hybrid method for segmenting boundaries of human organs from 2-D MR slices and US images is proposed. A snake model gives the ability to produce a smooth, closed contour of natural shape, resembling anatomical structures, such as human organs. A MRF model contributes noise robustness, as well as facilitates capturing image properties. To combine these two models a MRF maximum a posteriori (MAP) solution is used in each iteration to recalculate the snake dynamic external forces. The GVF field is calculated before each snake progression step in order to extend the capture range of the external forces.

*** Corresponding author, e-mail address: alexander.rukletsov@ziti.uni-heidelberg.de
**

Fourth International Conference on Digital Image Processing (ICDIP 2012), edited by Mohamed Othman, Sukumar Senthilkumar, Xie Yi, Proc. of SPIE Vol. 8334, 833414 · © 2012 SPIE CCC code: 0277-786X/12/$18 · doi: 10.1117/12.946104 Proc. of SPIE Vol. 8334 833414-1 Downloaded From: http://spiedigitallibrary.org/ on 12/11/2012 Terms of Use: http://spiedl.org/terms

The segmentation result is obtained after some number of iterations. For xi the first order Ising neighbourhood system [22] is used (systems of higher order significantly slow the computation while giving small benefit). x j )= 1 if xi = x j . x j )= 0 if xi ≠ x j . only sites near the contour should be considered. (1) (2) A solution of the segmentation problem is then the MAP estimate of the MRF model: ˆ X = arg max P ( X | D ) . i. ∏e Z j∈Ni (4) where N i is the Ising neighbourhood of the site i . Since the segmentation result is obtained from the snake position and the MRF model is used to tune the snake performance in the vicinity of the contour. L is a set of region labels. A recomputation of the GVF field is based on the result of the MRF MAP estimation.e.org/ on 12/11/2012 Terms of Use: http://spiedl. the more likely it belongs either to the object or to the background. Let i . where s ∈ [0. A configuration of the MRF depends on d i and on the current position of the contour c(s ) . y ) is the Kronecker delta. One of them is that MRF models allow to extract quantitative characteristics from prior constraints and contextual information. This dependency between the contour position c(s ) and the state Proc. The result of the MRF configuration estimation is used to build the GVF field which acts as the external energy of the snake. This guess is obtained from the current contour position which is changed during the snake evolution. β is a weighting coefficient and δ (x. closed boundary of human organs in reasonable time using a seed contour inside the target object. (3) where α is a weighting coefficient. x The relationship between image pixels and the random field state (image likelihood term) can be represented as a Gaussian over intensity: P (d i | xi ) = 1 2πσ i2 − α (d i − μi )2 2σ i2 e . L =1{(if the site i belongs to the object) .2. ˆ The MAP criterion can be used to find the labeling X that represents a segmentation of the target object. a contour proximity constraint similar to one in [15] is introduced. 8334 833414-2 Downloaded From: http://spiedigitallibrary. The farther from the contour the site is. The size of the lattice is equal to the size of the input 2-D image. The method can be interpreted as a GVF snake with non-standard dynamic external forces. 0 (if the site i belongs to the background)}. when the contour evolutions converge to some final contour. of SPIE Vol. First is the standard smoothness prior: Ps (xi ) = βδ (xi . δ (xi . 1] is the snake parameter. Z is a normalizing constant.org/terms . Denote image intensities by D and lattice configuration by X . 2. Consider a lattice with n sites. METHOD DESCRIPTION The goal of the proposed method is to extract a smooth. Since X is a joint random variable and the Markov property for X is satisfied. The implemented MRF model is based on the work [15] and applied here to segment a target object using a standard smoothness prior and some guess about the object boundary. the model forms a random field. δ (xi . They are updated during each iteration using X configuration. 1 ≤ i ≤ n be an image pixel and d i be its brightness. To penalize the sites which are far from the contour position. As the snake deforms external forces are recomputed using a MRF model and the GVF field. The posterior probability can be computed according to the Bayes rule ( P (D ) is constant and therefore can be ignored): P ( X | D ) ∝ P(D | X )P( X ) . A traditional snake is a contour c(s ) .x j ) 1 . The prior probability consists of two terms.1 MRF model Markov random fields [22] came from probability theory and are used in computer vision due to several reasons. the second part of the prior probability. For each site i a state value xi ∈ L is assigned. μi and σ i are the brightness mean and variance of the region corresponding to the value xi .

the initial seed contour does not need to be close to the real boundary because of the properties of the GVF field and the MRF model involved. Pc (xi = object ) = − γdist (i.c (s )) 1 . based on the GVF field). 3. whose boundary is used to compute the snake external forces. Eext (c ) is the energy potential derived from the input data.c(s )) ⋅ min pos (i ) − c(s ) . The input of the algorithm is a closed contour or a single point lying inside the target object. The uncertainty of the site's state xi reaches its maximum on the contour and decreases with distance from the contour.org/terms . The site labels are therefore estimated in a narrow band area around the contour and accepted without computation outside this area (see figure 1).org/ on 12/11/2012 Terms of Use: http://spiedl. Unlike in common snake-based models. The iteration starts with the construction of the MRF model. the GVF external force can be used [11]. The iteration ends with the snake progression step minimizing the total energy of the snake (internal and external.999 was defined). 8334 833414-3 Downloaded From: http://spiedigitallibrary. Thus. the sites for which Pc (xi ) is higher than some threshold value ρ0 (in this work ρ0 = 0.c(s )) = sign(i. The farther the real boundary is. the worse is the convergence of the snake with the traditional gradient-based external forces. Now the a posteriori distribution of the proposed MRF model can be derived: i P ( X | D ) ∝ ∏ (P(d i | xi ) ⋅ Ps (xi ) ⋅ Pc (xi )) . c(s )) = −1 otherwise. The MAP estimation gives the object region. it does not allow the contour to stretch and bend too much) and the external energy term (usually a function of image intensity. This input is used to initialize the GVF snake. Proc. etc): E (c ) = Eint (c )+ Eext (c ) = ∫ ω1 (s ) ⋅ |c' (s )|2 + ω2 (s ) ⋅ |c' ' (s )|2 ds + ωext (s )Eext (c ) . (5) with dist (i. 2.xi is defined as follows: 1+ e Pc (xi = background ) = 1 − Pc (xi = object ) .2 Snake forces The energy of the contour controls the snake movement and consists of the internal energy term (independent to input data. In this paper the GVF field is recomputed in every iteration from a binary edge map obtained from the MRF solution. pos(i ) stands for image coordinates of site i and γ controls the uncertainty of the state xi depending on its distance from the contour. 2. The result of the MRF MAP solution estimated by the MMD algorithm is used to recalculate the GVF field. To address this problem and to extend snake's capture range. it pulls the snake towards the structures of interest and ωext (s ) is its weighting coefficient. (7) To approximate the MAP estimation the Modified Metropolis Dynamics (MMD) algorithm [21] was used. IMPLEMENTATION ISSUES AND RESULTS The prior probabilities (5) and can be used to significantly speed up the MRF minimization process. of SPIE Vol.3 Algorithm description The proposed method operates iteratively. edges. may be excluded from the MRF minimization algorithm. c(s )) = 1 if pixel i is inside c(s ) and sign(i. s (6) where sign(i. 0 1 (8) where ω1 (s ) and ω2 (s ) control the tension and rigidity of the contour respectively.

ε controls the band width and is close to 0. The white area represents the object. The states of the sites outside the band are derived without computation. 1.2 . but can be set to constant values for certain image types. depending on the contour length. The GVF snake: 15th iteration (c).72 mm/pixel. Philips iE 33). The coefficients of the terms in the MRF model can be estimated during minimization by the EM algorithm. One complete iteration (which includes 20-30 MMD iterations. Snake weights were chosen constant: ω1 (s ) = 0. bottom row: [15]) and figure 3 (US. top row: Siemens Sonata. the black one is the background.org/ on 12/11/2012 Terms of Use: http://spiedl.org/terms . Proposed method: initial contour (a). ω2 (s ) = 0. the curve C is the current contour position.Figure 1. a b c d Figure 2. The initial contour in figure 3 is obtained using a coarse preprocessing step. of SPIE Vol. 8334 833414-4 Downloaded From: http://spiedigitallibrary. The segmentation results of the proposed and the GVF snake methods applied on three images of the left ventricle of the human heart are shown in figure 2 (MRI. 200th iteration (d). 400 GVF iterations and one snake progression step) for a 180 × 180 image took from 5 to 30 seconds. The sequential algorithm was implemented in MATLAB and tested on a 3 GHz AMD quad-core computer.5 . Contour evolution on MR images of the left ventricle of the human heart. in dotted – as the object. 15th iteration (b). ωext (s ) = 2 . All sites in the dashed shadowed area are labeled as the background. Proc.

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