A pipeline approach with spatial information for segmenting multiple sclerosis lesions on brain magnetic resonance imaging
Conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques are highly sensitive to detect multiple sclerosis (MS) plaques, enabling a quantitative assessment of inﬂammatory activity and lesion load. In quantitative analysis of focal lesions, manual or semi-automated segmentations have been widely used to compute the total number of lesions and the total lesion volume. These techniques, however, are both challenging and time-consuming, being also prone to intra-observer and inter-observer variability. Our aim is to develop an automated approach to segment brain tissues and MS lesions from brain MRI images. The goal is to reduce the user interaction and to provide an objective tool that eliminates the inter- and intra-observer variability. To this end, and based on the recent methods developed by Souplet et al. 2008 and de Boer et al. 2005, we propose a novel pipeline which includes the following steps: bias correction, skull stripping, atlas registration, tissue classification, and lesion segmentation. After the initial pre-processing steps, a MRI scan is automatically segmented into 4 classes: white matter (WM), grey matter (GM), cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and partial volume. An expectation maximization method which fits a multivariate Gaussian mixture model to T1-w, T2-w and PD-w images is used for this purpose. Based on the obtained tissue masks and using the estimated GM mean and variance, we apply an intensity threshold to the FLAIR image, which provides the lesion segmentation. With the aim of improving this initial result, spatial information coming from the neighboring tissue labels is used to refine the final lesion segmentation.