Technical Note: Automatic segmentation of CT images for ventral body composition analysis

Med Phys. 2020 Nov;47(11):5723-5730. doi: 10.1002/mp.14465. Epub 2020 Oct 3.


Purpose: Body composition is known to be associated with many diseases including diabetes, cancers, and cardiovascular diseases. In this paper, we developed a fully automatic body tissue decomposition procedure to segment three major compartments that are related to body composition analysis - subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT), visceral adipose tissue (VAT), and muscle. Three additional compartments - the ventral cavity, lung, and bones - were also segmented during the segmentation process to assist segmentation of the major compartments.

Methods: A convolutional neural network (CNN) model with densely connected layers was developed to perform ventral cavity segmentation. An image processing workflow was developed to segment the ventral cavity in any patient's computed tomography (CT) using the CNN model, then further segment the body tissue into multiple compartments using hysteresis thresholding followed by morphological operations. It is important to segment ventral cavity firstly to allow accurate separation of compartments with similar Hounsfield unit (HU) inside and outside the ventral cavity.

Results: The ventral cavity segmentation CNN model was trained and tested with manually labeled ventral cavities in 60 CTs. Dice scores (mean ± standard deviation) for ventral cavity segmentation were 0.966 ± 0.012. Tested on CT datasets with intravenous (IV) and oral contrast, the Dice scores were 0.96 ± 0.02, 0.94 ± 0.06, 0.96 ± 0.04, 0.95 ± 0.04, and 0.99 ± 0.01 for bone, VAT, SAT, muscle, and lung, respectively. The respective Dice scores were 0.97 ± 0.02, 0.94 ± 0.07, 0.93 ± 0.06, 0.91 ± 0.04, and 0.99 ± 0.01 for non-contrast CT datasets.

Conclusion: A body tissue decomposition procedure was developed to automatically segment multiple compartments of the ventral body. The proposed method enables fully automated quantification of three-dimensional (3D) ventral body composition metrics from CT images.

Keywords: body composition analysis; convolutional neural network; subcutaneous fat segmentation; visceral fat segmentation.

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Torso