An optimized blockwise nonlocal means denoising filter for 3-D magnetic resonance images

IEEE Trans Med Imaging. 2008 Apr;27(4):425-41. doi: 10.1109/TMI.2007.906087.


A critical issue in image restoration is the problem of noise removal while keeping the integrity of relevant image information. Denoising is a crucial step to increase image quality and to improve the performance of all the tasks needed for quantitative imaging analysis. The method proposed in this paper is based on a 3-D optimized blockwise version of the nonlocal (NL)-means filter (Buades, et al., 2005). The NL-means filter uses the redundancy of information in the image under study to remove the noise. The performance of the NL-means filter has been already demonstrated for 2-D images, but reducing the computational burden is a critical aspect to extend the method to 3-D images. To overcome this problem, we propose improvements to reduce the computational complexity. These different improvements allow to drastically divide the computational time while preserving the performances of the NL-means filter. A fully automated and optimized version of the NL-means filter is then presented. Our contributions to the NL-means filter are: 1) an automatic tuning of the smoothing parameter; 2) a selection of the most relevant voxels; 3) a blockwise implementation; and 4) a parallelized computation. Quantitative validation was carried out on synthetic datasets generated with BrainWeb (Collins, et al., 1998). The results show that our optimized NL-means filter outperforms the classical implementation of the NL-means filter, as well as two other classical denoising methods [anisotropic diffusion (Perona and Malik, 1990)] and total variation minimization process (Rudin, et al., 1992) in terms of accuracy (measured by the peak signal-to-noise ratio) with low computation time. Finally, qualitative results on real data are presented .

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Artifacts*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods*
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted