The location and extent of white matter lesions on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are important criteria for diagnosis, follow-up and prognosis of multiple sclerosis (MS). Clinical trials have shown that quantitative values, such as lesion volumes, are meaningful in MS prognosis. Manual lesion delineation for the segmentation of lesions is, however, time-consuming and suffers from observer variability. In this paper, we propose MSmetrix, an accurate and reliable automatic method for lesion segmentation based on MRI, independent of scanner or acquisition protocol and without requiring any training data. In MSmetrix, 3D T1-weighted and FLAIR MR images are used in a probabilistic model to detect white matter (WM) lesions as an outlier to normal brain while segmenting the brain tissue into grey matter, WM and cerebrospinal fluid. The actual lesion segmentation is performed based on prior knowledge about the location (within WM) and the appearance (hyperintense on FLAIR) of lesions. The accuracy of MSmetrix is evaluated by comparing its output with expert reference segmentations of 20 MRI datasets of MS patients. Spatial overlap (Dice) between the MSmetrix and the expert lesion segmentation is 0.67 ± 0.11. The intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) equals 0.8 indicating a good volumetric agreement between the MSmetrix and expert labelling. The reproducibility of MSmetrix' lesion volumes is evaluated based on 10 MS patients, scanned twice with a short interval on three different scanners. The agreement between the first and the second scan on each scanner is evaluated through the spatial overlap and absolute lesion volume difference between them. The spatial overlap was 0.69 ± 0.14 and absolute total lesion volume difference between the two scans was 0.54 ± 0.58 ml. Finally, the accuracy and reproducibility of MSmetrix compare favourably with other publicly available MS lesion segmentation algorithms, applied on the same data using default parameter settings.
Keywords: Brain segmentation; Magnetic resonance imaging; Multiple sclerosis; White matter lesions.