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Registration between 2D ultrasound (US) and 3D preoperative magnetic resonance (MR) (or computed tomography, CT) images has been studied recently for US-guided intervention. However, the existing techniques have some limits, either in the registration speed or the performance. The purpose of this work is to develop a real-time and fully automatic registration system between two intermodal images of the liver, and subsequently an indirect lesion positioning/tracking algorithm based on the registration result, for image-guided interventions.

The proposed position tracking system consists of three stages. In the preoperative stage, the authors acquire several 3D preoperative MR (or CT) images at different respiratory phases. Based on the transformations obtained from nonrigid registration of the acquired 3D images, they then generate a 4D preoperative image along the respiratory phase. In the intraoperative preparatory stage, they properly attach a 3D US transducer to the patient’s body and fix its pose using a holding mechanism. They then acquire a couple of respiratory-controlled 3D US images. Via the rigid registration of these US images to the 3D preoperative images in the 4D image, the pose information of the fixed-pose 3D US transducer is determined with respect to the preoperative image coordinates. As feature(s) to use for the rigid registration, they may choose either internal liver vessels or the inferior vena cava. Since the latter is especially useful in patients with a diffuse liver disease, the authors newly propose using it. In the intraoperative real-time stage, they acquire 2D US images in real-time from the fixed-pose transducer. For each US image, they select candidates for its corresponding 2D preoperative slice from the 4D preoperative MR (or CT) image, based on the predetermined pose information of the transducer. The correct corresponding image is then found among those candidates via real-time 2D registration based on a gradient-based similarity measure. Finally, if needed, they obtain the position information of the liver lesion using the 3D preoperative image to which the registered 2D preoperative slice belongs.

The proposed method was applied to 23 clinical datasets and quantitative evaluations were conducted. With the exception of one clinical dataset that included US images of extremely low quality, 22 datasets of various liver status were successfully applied in the evaluation. Experimental results showed that the registration error between the anatomical features of US and preoperative MR images is less than 3 mm on average. The lesion tracking error was also found to be less than 5 mm at maximum.

A new system has been proposed for real-time registration between 2D US and successive multiple 3D preoperative MR/CT images of the liver and was applied for indirect lesion tracking for image-guided intervention. The system is fully automatic and robust even with images that had low quality due to patient status. Through visual examinations and quantitative evaluations, it was verified that the proposed system can provide high lesion tracking accuracy as well as high registration accuracy, at performance levels which were acceptable for various clinical applications.


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