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IEEE Trans Med Imaging. 2009 Apr;28(4):487-93. doi: 10.1109/TMI.2008.929102. Epub 2008 Aug 8.

A representation and classification scheme for tree-like structures in medical images: analyzing the branching pattern of ductal trees in X-ray galactograms.

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  • 1Department of Computer and Information Sciences, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122 USA.


We propose a multistep approach for representing and classifying tree-like structures in medical images. Tree-like structures are frequently encountered in biomedical contexts; examples are the bronchial system, the vascular topology, and the breast ductal network. We use tree encoding techniques, such as the depth-first string encoding and the PrUfer encoding, to obtain a symbolic string representation of the tree's branching topology; the problem of classifying trees is then reduced to string classification. We use the tf-idf text mining technique to assign a weight of significance to each string term (i.e., tree node label). Similarity searches and k-nearest neighbor classification of the trees is performed using the tf-idf weight vectors and the cosine similarity metric. We applied our approach to characterize the ductal tree-like parenchymal structure in X-ray galactograms, in order to distinguish among different radiological findings. Experimental results demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed approach with classification accuracy reaching up to 86%, and also indicate that our method can potentially aid in providing insight to the relationship between branching patterns and function or pathology.

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