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Efficient segmentation of globally optimal surfaces in volumetric images is a central problem in many medical image analysis applications. Intraclass variance has been successfully utilized for object segmentation, for instance, in the Chan-Vese model, especially for images without prominent edges. In this paper, we study the optimization problem of detecting a region (volume) between two coupled smooth surfaces by minimizing the intraclass variance using an efficient polynomial-time algorithm. Our algorithm is based on the shape probing technique in computational geometry and computes a sequence of minimum-cost closed sets in a derived parametric graph. The method has been validated on computer-synthetic volumetric images and in X-ray CT-scanned datasets of plexiglas tubes of known sizes. Its applicability to clinical data sets was also demonstrated. In all cases, the approach yielded highly accurate results. We believe that the developed technique is of interest on its own. We expect that it can shed some light on solving other important optimization problems arising in medical imaging. Furthermore, we report an approximation algorithm which runs much faster than the exact algorithm while yielding highly comparable segmentation accuracy.
Date of Publication: March 2011