Automatic 3D CT liver segmentation based on fast global minimization of probabilistic active contour

Med Phys. 2023 Apr;50(4):2100-2120. doi: 10.1002/mp.16116. Epub 2022 Dec 13.


Purpose: Automatic liver segmentation from computed tomography (CT) images is an essential preprocessing step for computer-aided diagnosis of liver diseases. However, due to the large differences in liver shapes, low-contrast to adjacent tissues, and existence of tumors or other abnormalities, liver segmentation has been very challenging. This study presents an accurate and fast liver segmentation method based on a novel probabilistic active contour (PAC) model and its fast global minimization scheme (3D-FGMPAC), which is explainable as compared with deep learning methods.

Methods: The proposed method first constructs a slice-indexed-histogram to localize the volume of interest (VOI) and estimate the probability that a voxel belongs to the liver according its intensity. The probabilistic image would be used to initialize the 3D PAC model. Secondly, a new contour indicator function, which is a component of the model, is produced by combining the gradient-based edge detection and Hessian-matrix-based surface detection. Then, a fast numerical scheme derived for the 3D PAC model is performed to evolve the initial probabilistic image into the global minimizer of the model, which is a smoothed probabilistic image showing a distinctly highlighted liver. Next, a simple region-growing strategy is applied to extract the whole liver mask from the smoothed probabilistic image. Finally, a B-spline surface is constructed to fit the patch of the rib cage to prevent possible leakage into adjacent intercostal tissues.

Results: The proposed method is evaluated on two public datasets. The average Dice score, volume overlap error, volume difference, symmetric surface distance and volume processing time are 0.96, 7.35%, 0.02%, 1.17 mm and 19.8 s for the Sliver07 dataset, and 0.95, 8.89%, - 0.02 % $-0.02\%$ , 1.45 mm and 23.08 s for the 3Dircadb dataset, respectively.

Conclusions: The proposed fully-automatic approach can effectively segment the liver from low-contrast and complex backgrounds. The quantitative and qualitative results demonstrate that the proposed segmentation method outperforms state-of-the-art traditional automatic liver segmentation algorithms and achieves very competitive performance compared with recent deep leaning-based methods.

Keywords: B-spline surface fitting; CT; liver segmentation; probabilistic active contour; variational method.

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen
  • Algorithms
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Liver Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Liver* / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver* / pathology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods