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We propose an automatic four-chamber heart segmentation system for the quantitative functional analysis of the heart from cardiac computed tomography (CT) volumes. Two topics are discussed: heart modeling and automatic model fitting to an unseen volume. Heart modeling is a nontrivial task since the heart is a complex nonrigid organ. The model must be anatomically accurate, allow manual editing, and provide sufficient information to guide automatic detection and segmentation. Unlike previous work, we explicitly represent important landmarks (such as the valves and the ventricular septum cusps) among the control points of the model. The control points can be detected reliably to guide the automatic model fitting process. Using this model, we develop an efficient and robust approach for automatic heart chamber segmentation in 3D CT volumes. We formulate the segmentation as a two-step learning problem: anatomical structure localization and boundary delineation. In both steps, we exploit the recent advances in learning discriminative models. A novel algorithm, marginal space learning (MSL), is introduced to solve the 9-D similarity transformation search problem for localizing the heart chambers. After determining the pose of the heart chambers, we estimate the 3D shape through learning-based boundary delineation. The proposed method has been extensively tested on the largest dataset (with 323 volumes from 137 patients) ever reported in the literature. To the best of our knowledge, our system is the fastest with a speed of 4.0 s per volume (on a dual-core 3.2-GHz processor) for the automatic segmentation of all four chambers.
Date of Publication: Nov. 2008