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Med Phys. 2010 Aug;37(8):3940-56.

Multilevel analysis of spatiotemporal association features for differentiation of tumor enhancement patterns in breast DCE-MRI.

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Interdisciplinary Program in Radiation Applied Life Science, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Korea.



Analyzing spatiotemporal enhancement patterns is an important task for the differential diagnosis of breast tumors in dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI (DCE-MRI), and yet remains challenging because of complexities in analyzing the time-series of three-dimensional image data. The authors propose a novel approach to breast MRI computer-aided diagnosis (CAD) using a multilevel analysis of spatiotemporal association features for tumor enhancement patterns in DCE-MRI.


A database of 171 cases consisting of 111 malignant and 60 benign tumors was used. Time-series contrast-enhanced MR images were obtained from two different types of MR scanners and protocols. The images were first registered for motion compensation, and then tumor regions were segmented using a fuzzy c-means clustering-based method. Spatiotemporal associations of tumor enhancement patterns were analyzed at three levels: Mapping of pixelwise kinetic features within a tumor, extraction of spatial association features from kinetic feature maps, and extraction of kinetic association features at the spatial feature level. A total of 84 initial features were extracted. Predictable values of these features were evaluated with an area under the ROC curve, and were compared between the spatiotemporal association features and a subset of simple form features which do not reflect spatiotemporal association. Several optimized feature sets were identified among the spatiotemporal association feature group or among the simple feature group based on a feature ranking criterion using a support vector machine based recursive feature elimination algorithm. A least-squares support vector machine (LS-SVM) classifier was used for tumor differentiation and the performances were evaluated using a leave-one-out testing.


Predictable values of the extracted single features ranged in 0.52-0.75. By applying multilevel analysis strategy, the spatiotemporal association features became more informative in predicting tumor malignancy, which was shown by a statistical testing in ten spatiotemporal association features. By using a LS-SVM classifier with the optimized second and third level feature set, the CAD scheme showed Az of 0.88 in classification of malignant and benign tumors. When this performance was compared to the same LS-SVM classifier with simple form features which do not reflect spatiotemporal association, there was a statistically significant difference (0.88 vs 0.79, p <0.05), suggesting that the multilevel analysis strategy yields a significant performance improvement.


The results suggest that the multilevel analysis strategy characterizes the complex tumor enhancement patterns effectively with the spatiotemporal association features, which in turn leads to an improved tumor differentiation. The proposed CAD scheme has a potential for improving diagnostic performance in breast DCE-MRI.

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