Purpose: To present a computer-aided detection tool for identifying, quantifying, and evaluating tuberculosis (TB) cavities in the infected lungs from computed tomography (CT) scans.
Methods: The authors' proposed method is based on a novel shape-based automated detection algorithm on CT scans followed by a fuzzy connectedness (FC) delineation procedure. In order to assess interaction between cavities and airways, the authors first roughly identified air-filled structures (airway, cavities, esophagus, etc.) by thresholding over Hounsfield unit of CT image. Then, airway and cavity structure detection was conducted within the support vector machine classification algorithm. Once airway and cavities were detected automatically, the authors extracted airway tree using a hybrid multiscale approach based on novel affinity relations within the FC framework and segmented cavities using intensity-based FC algorithm. At final step, the authors refined airway structures within the local regions of FC with finer control. Cavity segmentation results were compared to the reference truths provided by expert radiologists and cavity formation was tracked longitudinally from serial CT scans through shape and volume information automatically determined through the authors' proposed system. Morphological evolution of the cavitary TB were analyzed accordingly with this process. Finally, the authors computed the minimum distance between cavity surface and nearby airway structures by using the linear time distance transform algorithm to explore potential role of airways in cavity formation and morphological evolution.
Results: The proposed methodology was qualitatively and quantitatively evaluated on pulmonary CT images of rabbits experimentally infected with TB, and multiple markers such as cavity volume, cavity surface area, minimum distance from cavity surface to the nearest bronchial-tree, and longitudinal change of these markers (namely, morphological evolution of cavities) were determined precisely. While accuracy of the authors' cavity detection algorithm was 94.61%, airway detection part of the proposed methodology showed even higher performance by 99.8%. Dice similarity coefficients for cavitary segmentation experiments were found to be approximately 99.0% with respect to the reference truths provided by two expert radiologists (blinded to their evaluations). Moreover, the authors noted that volume derived from the authors' segmentation method was highly correlated with those provided by the expert radiologists (R(2) = 0.99757 and R(2) = 0.99496, p < 0.001, with respect to the observer 1 and observer 2) with an interobserver agreement of 98%. The authors quantitatively confirmed that cavity formation was positioned by the nearby bronchial-tree after exploring the respective spatial positions based on the minimum distance measurement. In terms of efficiency, the core algorithms take less than 2 min on a linux machine with 3.47 GHz CPU and 24 GB memory.
Conclusion: The authors presented a fully automatic method for cavitary TB detection, quantification, and evaluation. The performance of every step of the algorithm was qualitatively and quantitatively assessed. With the proposed method, airways and cavities were automatically detected and subsequently delineated in high accuracy with heightened efficiency. Furthermore, not only morphological information of cavities were obtained through the authors' proposed framework, but their spatial relation to airways, and longitudinal analysis was also provided to get further insight on cavity formation in tuberculosis disease. To the authors' best of knowledge, this is the first study in computerized analysis of cavitary tuberculosis from CT scans.