3-D Ultrasound Segmentation of the Placenta Using the Random Walker Algorithm: Reliability and Agreement.
Stevenson GN., Collins SL., Ding J., Impey L., Noble JA.
Volumetric segmentation of the placenta using 3-D ultrasound is currently performed clinically to investigate correlation between organ volume and fetal outcome or pathology. Previously, interpolative or semi-automatic contour-based methodologies were used to provide volumetric results. We describe the validation of an original random walker (RW)-based algorithm against manual segmentation and an existing semi-automated method, virtual organ computer-aided analysis (VOCAL), using initialization time, inter- and intra-observer variability of volumetric measurements and quantification accuracy (with respect to manual segmentation) as metrics of success. Both semi-automatic methods require initialization. Therefore, the first experiment compared initialization times. Initialization was timed by one observer using 20 subjects. This revealed significant differences (p < 0.001) in time taken to initialize the VOCAL method compared with the RW method. In the second experiment, 10 subjects were used to analyze intra-/inter-observer variability between two observers. Bland-Altman plots were used to analyze variability combined with intra- and inter-observer variability measured by intra-class correlation coefficients, which were reported for all three methods. Intra-class correlation coefficient values for intra-observer variability were higher for the RW method than for VOCAL, and both were similar to manual segmentation. Inter-observer variability was 0.94 (0.88, 0.97), 0.91 (0.81, 0.95) and 0.80 (0.61, 0.90) for manual, RW and VOCAL, respectively. Finally, a third observer with no prior ultrasound experience was introduced and volumetric differences from manual segmentation were reported. Dice similarity coefficients for observers 1, 2 and 3 were respectively 0.84 ± 0.12, 0.94 ± 0.08 and 0.84 ± 0.11, and the mean was 0.87 ± 0.13. The RW algorithm was found to provide results concordant with those for manual segmentation and to outperform VOCAL in aspects of observer reliability. The training of an additional untrained observer was investigated, and results revealed that with the appropriate initialization protocol, results for observers with varying levels of experience were concordant. We found that with appropriate training, the RW method can be used for fast, repeatable 3-D measurement of placental volume.