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PLoS One. 2019 Feb 14;14(2):e0212272. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0212272. eCollection 2019.

Automated localization and quality control of the aorta in cine CMR can significantly accelerate processing of the UK Biobank population data.

Author information

Oxford Centre for Clinical Magnetic Resonance Research (OCMR), Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Radcliffe Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.
William Harvey Research Institute, NIHR Barts Biomedical Research Centre, Queen Mary University of London, London, United Kingdom.
Institute of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.



Aortic distensibility can be calculated using semi-automated methods to segment the aortic lumen on cine CMR (Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance) images. However, these methods require visual quality control and manual localization of the region of interest (ROI) of ascending (AA) and proximal descending (PDA) aorta, which limit the analysis in large-scale population-based studies. Using 5100 scans from UK Biobank, this study sought to develop and validate a fully automated method to 1) detect and locate the ROIs of AA and PDA, and 2) provide a quality control mechanism.


The automated AA and PDA detection-localization algorithm followed these steps: 1) foreground segmentation; 2) detection of candidate ROIs by Circular Hough Transform (CHT); 3) spatial, histogram and shape feature extraction for candidate ROIs; 4) AA and PDA detection using Random Forest (RF); 5) quality control based on RF detection probability. To provide the ground truth, overall image quality (IQ = 0-3 from poor to good) and aortic locations were visually assessed by 13 observers. The automated algorithm was trained on 1200 scans and Dice Similarity Coefficient (DSC) was used to calculate the agreement between ground truth and automatically detected ROIs.


The automated algorithm was tested on 3900 scans. Detection accuracy was 99.4% for AA and 99.8% for PDA. Aorta localization showed excellent agreement with the ground truth, with DSC ≥ 0.9 in 94.8% of AA (DSC = 0.97 ± 0.04) and 99.5% of PDA cases (DSC = 0.98 ± 0.03). AA×PDA detection probabilities could discriminate scans with IQ ≥ 1 from those severely corrupted by artefacts (AUC = 90.6%). If scans with detection probability < 0.75 were excluded (350 scans), the algorithm was able to correctly detect and localize AA and PDA in all the remaining 3550 scans (100% accuracy).


The proposed method for automated AA and PDA localization was extremely accurate and the automatically derived detection probabilities provided a robust mechanism to detect low quality scans for further human review. Applying the proposed localization and quality control techniques promises at least a ten-fold reduction in human involvement without sacrificing any accuracy.

Conflict of interest statement

Steffen E. Petersen provides consultancy to Circle Cardiovascular Imaging Inc. (Calgary, Alberta, Canada). This does not alter our adherence to PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials. The other authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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