The use of 3D ultrasound imaging to follow the progression of scoliosis, i.e., a 3D deformation of the spine, is described. Unlike other current examination modalities, in particular based on X-ray, its non-detrimental effect enables it to be used frequently to follow the progression of scoliosis which sometimes may develop rapidly. Furthermore, 3D ultrasound imaging provides information in 3D directly in contrast to projection methods.
This paper describes a feasibility study of an ultrasound system to provide a 3D image of the human spine, and presents a framework of procedures to perform this task. The framework consist of an ultrasound image acquisition procedure to image a large part of the human spine by means of a freehand 3D ultrasound system and a volume reconstruction procedure which was performed in four stages: bin-filling, hole-filling, volume segment alignment, and volume segment compounding.
The overall results of the procedures in this framework show that imaging of the human spine using ultrasound is feasible. Vertebral parts such as the transverse processes, laminae, superior articular processes, and spinous process of the vertebrae appear as clouds of voxels having intensities higher than the surrounding voxels. In sagittal slices, a string of transverse processes appears representing the curvature of the spine. In the bin-filling stage the estimated mean absolute noise level of a single measurement of a single voxel was determined. Our comparative study for the hole-filling methods based on rank sum statistics proved that the pixel nearest neighbour (PNN) method with variable radius and with the proposed olympic operation is the best method. Its mean absolute grey value error was less in magnitude than the noise level of a single measurement.