Total brain white matter lesion (WML) volume is the most widely established magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) outcome measure in studies of multiple sclerosis (MS). To estimate WML volume, there are a number of automatic segmentation methods available, yet manual delineation remains the gold standard approach. Automatic approaches often yield a probability map to which a threshold is applied to create lesion segmentation masks. Unfortunately, few approaches systematically determine the threshold employed; many methods use a manually selected threshold, thus introducing human error and bias into the automated procedure. In this study, we propose and validate an automatic thresholding algorithm, Thresholding Approach for Probability Map Automatic Segmentation in Multiple Sclerosis (TAPAS), to obtain subject-specific threshold estimates for probability map automatic segmentation of T2-weighted (T2) hyperintense WMLs. Using multimodal MRI, the proposed method applies an automatic segmentation algorithm to obtain probability maps. We obtain the true subject-specific threshold that maximizes the Sørensen-Dice similarity coefficient (DSC). Then the subject-specific thresholds are modeled on a naive estimate of volume using a generalized additive model. Applying this model, we predict a subject-specific threshold in data not used for training. We ran a Monte Carlo-resampled split-sample cross-validation (100 validation sets) using two data sets: the first obtained from the Johns Hopkins Hospital (JHH) on a Philips 3 Tesla (3T) scanner (n = 94) and a second collected at the Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) using a Siemens 3T scanner (n = 40). By means of the proposed automated technique, in the JHH data we found an average reduction in subject-level absolute error of 0.1 mL per one mL increase in manual volume. Using Bland-Altman analysis, we found that volumetric bias associated with group-level thresholding was mitigated when applying TAPAS. The BWH data showed similar absolute error estimates using group-level thresholding or TAPAS likely since Bland-Altman analyses indicated no systematic biases associated with group or TAPAS volume estimates. The current study presents the first validated fully automated method for subject-specific threshold prediction to segment brain lesions.
Published by Elsevier Inc.