Comput Methods Programs Biomed. 2023 Sep 6;242:107790. doi: 10.1016/j.cmpb.2023.107790. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Phase contrast magnetic resonance imaging (4D flow MRI) is an imaging technique able to provide blood velocity in vivo and morphological information. This capability has been used to study mainly the hemodynamics of large vessels, such as the thoracic aorta. However, the segmentation of 4D flow MRI data is a complex and time-consuming task. In recent years, neural networks have shown great accuracy in segmentation tasks if large datasets are provided. Unfortunately, in the context of 4D flow MRI, the availability of these data is limited due to its recent adoption in clinical settings. In this study, we propose a pipeline for generating synthetic thoracic aorta phase contrast magnetic resonance angiography (PCMRA) to expand the limited dataset of patient-specific PCMRA images, ultimately improving the accuracy of the neural network segmentation even with a small real dataset.
METHODS: The pipeline involves several steps. First, a statistical shape model is used to synthesize new artificial geometries to improve data numerosity and variability. Secondly, computational fluid dynamics simulations are employed to simulate the velocity fields and, finally, after a downsampling and a signal-to-noise and velocity limit adjustment in both frequency and spatial domains, volumes are obtained using the PCMRA formula. These synthesized volumes are used in combination with real-world data to train a 3D U-Net neural network. Different settings of real and synthetic data are tested.
RESULTS: Incorporating synthetic data into the training set significantly improved the segmentation performance compared to using only real data. The experiments with synthetic data achieved a DICE score (DS) value of 0.83 and a better target reconstruction with respect to the case with only real data (DS = 0.65).
CONCLUSION: The proposed pipeline demonstrated the ability to increase the dataset in terms of numerosity and variability and to improve the segmentation accuracy for the thoracic aorta using PCMRA.