Fully automatic segmentation of white matter hyperintensities in MR images of the elderly

Neuroimage. 2005 Nov 15;28(3):607-17. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.06.061. Epub 2005 Aug 29.


The role of quantitative image analysis in large clinical trials is continuously increasing. Several methods are available for performing white matter hyperintensity (WMH) volume quantification. They vary in the amount of the human interaction involved. In this paper, we describe a fully automatic segmentation that was used to quantify WMHs in a large clinical trial on elderly subjects. Our segmentation method combines information from 3 different MR images: proton density (PD), T2-weighted and fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) images; our method uses an established artificial intelligent technique (fuzzy inference system) and does not require extensive computations. The reproducibility of the segmentation was evaluated in 9 patients who underwent scan-rescan with repositioning; an inter-class correlation coefficient (ICC) of 0.91 was obtained. The effect of differences in image resolution was tested in 44 patients, scanned with 6- and 3-mm slice thickness FLAIR images; we obtained an ICC value of 0.99. The accuracy of the segmentation was evaluated on 100 patients for whom manual delineation of WMHs was available; the obtained ICC was 0.98 and the similarity index was 0.75. Besides the fact that the approach demonstrated very high volumetric and spatial agreement with expert delineation, the software did not require more than 2 min per patient (from loading the images to saving the results) on a Pentium-4 processor (512 MB RAM).

MeSH terms

  • Aged / physiology*
  • Algorithms
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / physiology
  • Female
  • Fuzzy Logic
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / statistics & numerical data*
  • Linear Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Observer Variation