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Ultrasound-based motion estimation is an expanding subfield of image-guided radiation therapy. Although ultrasound can detect tissue motion that is a fraction of a millimeter, its accuracy is variable. For controlling linear accelerator tracking and gating, ultrasound motion estimates must remain highly accurate throughout the imagingsequence. This study presents a temporal regularization method for correlation-based template matching which aims to improve the accuracy of motion estimates.

Liverultrasoundsequences (15–23 Hz imaging rate, 2.5–5.5 min length) from ten healthy volunteers under free breathing were used. Anatomical features (blood vessels) in each sequence were manually annotated for comparison with normalized cross-correlation based template matching. Five sequences from a Siemens Acuson™ scanner were used for algorithm development (training set). Results from incremental tracking (IT) were compared with a temporal regularization method, which included a highly specific similarity metric and state observer, known as the filter/similarity threshold (ABST). A further five sequences from an Elekta Clarity™ system were used for validation, without alteration of the tracking algorithm (validation set).

Overall, the ABST method produced marked improvements in vessel tracking accuracy. For the training set, the mean and 95th percentile (95%) errors (defined as the difference from manual annotations) were 1.6 and 1.4 mm, respectively (compared to 6.2 and 9.1 mm, respectively, for IT). For each sequence, the use of the state observer leads to improvement in the 95% error. For the validation set, the mean and 95% errors for the ABST method were 0.8 and 1.5 mm, respectively.

Ultrasound-based motion estimation has potential to monitor liver translation over long time periods with high accuracy. Nonrigid motion (strain) and the quality of the ultrasound data are likely to have an impact on tracking performance. A future study will investigate spatial uniformity of motion and its effect on the motion estimation errors.


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