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A major barrier for using 3-D echocardiography for quantitative analysis of heart function in routine clinical practice is the absence of accurate and robust segmentation and tracking methods necessary to make the analysis automatic. In this paper, we present an automated three-dimensional (3-D) echocardiographic acquisition and image-processing methodology for assessment of left ventricular (LV) function. We combine global image information provided by a novel multiscale fuzzy-clustering segmentation algorithm, with local boundaries obtained with phase-based acoustic feature detection. We then use the segmentation results to fit and track the LV endocardial surface using a 3-D continuous transformation. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a completely automated method. The protocol is evaluated in a small clinical case study (nine patients). We compare ejection fractions (EFs) computed with the new approach to those obtained using the standard clinical technique, single-photon emission computed tomography multigated acquisition. Errors on six datasets were found to be within six percentage points. A further two, with poor image quality, improved upon EFs from manually delineated contours, and the last failed due to artifacts in the data. Volume-time curves were derived and the results compared to those from manual segmentation. Improvement over an earlier published version of the method is noted.
Date of Publication: Sept. 2002