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Med Phys. 2011 Nov;38(11):6160-70. doi: 10.1118/1.3654160.

Auto-segmentation of normal and target structures in head and neck CT images: a feature-driven model-based approach.

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Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto, Ontario M5G 2M9, Canada.



Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) allows greater control over dose distribution, which leads to a decrease in radiation related toxicity. IMRT, however, requires precise and accurate delineation of the organs at risk and target volumes. Manual delineation is tedious and suffers from both interobserver and intraobserver variability. State of the art auto-segmentation methods are either atlas-based, model-based or hybrid however, robust fully automated segmentation is often difficult due to the insufficient discriminative information provided by standard medical imaging modalities for certain tissue types. In this paper, the authors present a fully automated hybrid approach which combines deformable registration with the model-based approach to accurately segment normal and target tissues from head and neck CT images.


The segmentation process starts by using an average atlas to reliably identify salient landmarks in the patient image. The relationship between these landmarks and the reference dataset serves to guide a deformable registration algorithm, which allows for a close initialization of a set of organ-specific deformable models in the patient image, ensuring their robust adaptation to the boundaries of the structures. Finally, the models are automatically fine adjusted by our boundary refinement approach which attempts to model the uncertainty in model adaptation using a probabilistic mask. This uncertainty is subsequently resolved by voxel classification based on local low-level organ-specific features.


To quantitatively evaluate the method, they auto-segment several organs at risk and target tissues from 10 head and neck CT images. They compare the segmentations to the manual delineations outlined by the expert. The evaluation is carried out by estimating two common quantitative measures on 10 datasets: volume overlap fraction or the Dice similarity coefficient (DSC), and a geometrical metric, the median symmetric Hausdorff distance (HD), which is evaluated slice-wise. They achieve an average overlap of 93% for the mandible, 91% for the brainstem, 83% for the parotids, 83% for the submandibular glands, and 74% for the lymph node levels.


Our automated segmentation framework is able to segment anatomy in the head and neck region with high accuracy within a clinically-acceptable segmentation time.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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