Localization of features and structures in images is an important task in medical image-processing. Characteristic structures and features are used in diagnostics and surgery planning for spatial adjustments of the volumetric data, including image registration or localization of bone-anchors and fiducials. Since this task is highly recurrent, a fast, reliable and automated approach without human interaction and parameter adjustment is of high interest. In this paper we propose and compare four image processing pipelines, including algorithms for automatic detection and localization of spherical features within 3D MRI data. We developed a convolution based method as well as algorithms based on connected-components labeling and analysis and the circular Hough-transform. A blob detection related approach, analyzing the Hessian determinant, was examined. Furthermore, we introduce a novel spherical MRI-marker design. In combination with the proposed algorithms and pipelines, this allows the detection and spatial localization, including the direction, of fiducials and bone-anchors.
Keywords: MRI marker; automatic localization; bone anchor; fiducial; magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); neurosurgery; segmentation; sphere detection; stereotaxy.