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In the framework of computer-aided diagnosis, this paper proposes a novel functionality for the computerized tomography (CT)-based investigation of the pulmonary airways. It relies on an energy-based three-dimensional (3-D) reconstruction of the bronchial tree from multislice CT acquisitions, up to the sixth- to seventh-order subdivisions. Global and local analysis of the reconstructed airways is possible by means of specific visualization modalities, respectively, the CT bronchography and the virtual bronchoscopy. The originality of the 3-D reconstruction approach consists in combining axial and radial propagation potentials to control the growth of a subset of low-order airways extracted from the CT volume by means of a robust mathematical morphology operator-the selective marking and depth constrained (SMDC) connection cost. The proposed approach proved to be robust with respect to a large spectrum of airway pathologies, including even severe stenosis (bronchial lumen obstruction/collapse). Validated by expert radiologists, examples of airway 3-D reconstructions are presented and discussed for both normal and pathological cases. They highlight the interest in considering CT bronchography and virtual bronchoscopy as complementary tools for clinical diagnosis and follow-up of airway diseases.
Date of Publication: Nov. 2004