Evaluating and reducing the impact of white matter lesions on brain volume measurements

Hum Brain Mapp. 2012 Sep;33(9):2062-71. doi: 10.1002/hbm.21344. Epub 2011 Aug 31.


MR-based measurements of brain volumes may be affected by the presence of white matter (WM) lesions. Here, we assessed how and to what extent this may happen for WM lesions of various sizes and intensities. After inserting WM lesions of different sizes and intensities into T1-W brain images of healthy subjects, we assessed the effect on two widely used automatic methods for brain volume measurement such as SIENAX (segmentation-based) and SIENA (registration-based). To explore the relevance of partial volume (PV) estimation, we performed the experiments with two different PV models, implemented by the same segmentation algorithm (FAST) of SIENAX and SIENA. Finally, we tested potential solutions to this issue. The presence of WM lesions did not bias measurements for registration-based method such as SIENA. By contrast, the presence of WM lesions affected segmentation-based brain volume measurements such as SIENAx. The misclassification of both gray matter (GM) and WM volumes varied considerably with lesion size and intensity, especially when the lesion intensity was similar to that of the GM/WM interface. The extent to which the presence of WM lesions could affect tissue-class measures was clearly driven by the PV modeling used, with the mixel-type PV model giving a lower error in the presence of WM lesions. The tissue misclassification due to WM lesions was still present when they were masked out. By contrast, refilling the lesions with intensities matching the surrounding normal-appearing WM ensured accurate tissue-class measurements and thus represents a promising approach for accurate tissue classification and brain volume measurements.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Normal Distribution