Automated multiclass segmentation, quantification, and visualization of the diseased aorta on hybrid PET/CT-SEQUOIA

Gijs D van Praagh*, Pieter H Nienhuis, Melanie Reijrink, Mirjam E J Davidse, Lisa M Duff, Bruce S Spottiswoode, Douwe J Mulder, Niek H J Prakken, Andy F Scarsbrook, Ann W Morgan, Charalampos Tsoumpas, Jelmer M Wolterink, Kim B Mouridsen, Ronald J H Borra, Bhanu Sinha, Riemer H J A Slart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death worldwide, including infection and inflammation related conditions. Multiple studies have demonstrated potential advantages of hybrid positron emission tomography combined with computed tomography (PET/CT) as an adjunct to current clinical inflammatory and infectious biochemical markers. To quantitatively analyze vascular diseases at PET/CT, robust segmentation of the aorta is necessary. However, manual segmentation is extremely time-consuming and labor-intensive.

PURPOSE: To investigate the feasibility and accuracy of an automated tool to segment and quantify multiple parts of the diseased aorta on unenhanced low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) as an anatomical reference for PET-assessed vascular disease.

METHODS: A software pipeline was developed including automated segmentation using a 3D U-Net, calcium scoring, PET uptake quantification, background measurement, radiomics feature extraction, and 2D surface visualization of vessel wall calcium and tracer uptake distribution. To train the 3D U-Net, 352 non-contrast LDCTs from (2-[ 18 F]FDG and Na[ 18 F]F) PET/CTs performed in patients with various vascular pathologies with manual segmentation of the ascending aorta, aortic arch, descending aorta, and abdominal aorta were used. The last 22 consecutive scans were used as a hold-out internal test set. The remaining dataset was randomly split into training (n = 264; 80%) and validation (n = 66; 20%) sets. Further evaluation was performed on an external test set of 49 PET/CTs. The dice similarity coefficient (DSC) and Hausdorff distance (HD) were used to assess segmentation performance. Automatically obtained calcium scores and uptake values were compared with manual scoring obtained using clinical softwares (syngo.via and Affinity Viewer) in six patient images. intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) were calculated to validate calcium and uptake values.

RESULTS: Fully automated segmentation of the aorta using a 3D U-Net was feasible in LDCT obtained from PET/CT scans. The external test set yielded a DSC of 0.867 ± 0.030 and HD of 1.0 [0.6-1.4] mm, similar to an open-source model with a DSC of 0.864 ± 0.023 and HD of 1.4 [1.0-1.8] mm. Quantification of calcium and uptake values were in excellent agreement with clinical software (ICC: 1.00 [1.00-1.00] and 0.99 [0.93-1.00] for calcium and uptake values, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: We present an automated pipeline to segment the ascending aorta, aortic arch, descending aorta, and abdominal aorta on LDCT from PET/CT and to accurately provide uptake values, calcium scores, background measurement, radiomics features, and a 2D visualization. We call this algorithm SEQUOIA (SEgmentation, QUantification, and visualizatiOn of the dIseased Aorta) and is available at https://github.com/UMCG-CVI/SEQUOIA. This model could augment the utility of aortic evaluation at PET/CT studies tremendously, irrespective of the tracer, and potentially provide fast and reliable quantification of cardiovascular diseases in clinical practice, both for primary diagnosis and disease monitoring.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalMedical Physics
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7-Feb-2024

Keywords

  • aorta
  • artificial neural network
  • calcium score
  • cardiovascular disease
  • computed tomography
  • positron emission tomography
  • radiomics

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