An unsupervised metaheuristic search approach for segmentation and volume measurement of pulmonary nodules in lung CT scans

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Elham Shakibapour
António Cunha
Guilherme Moreira Aresta
Ana Maria Mendonça
Aurélio Campilho
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This paper proposes a new methodology to automatically segment and measure the volume of pulmonary nodules in lung computed tomography (CT) scans. Estimating the malignancy likelihood of a pulmonary nodule based on lesion characteristics motivated the development of an unsupervised pulmonary nodule segmentation and volume measurement as a preliminary stage for pulmonary nodule characterization. The idea is to optimally cluster a set of feature vectors composed by intensity and shape-related features in a given feature data space extracted from a pre-detected nodule. For that purpose, a metaheuristic search based on evolutionary computation is used for clustering the corresponding feature vectors. The proposed method is simple, unsupervised and is able to segment different types of nodules in terms of location and texture without the need for any manual annotation. We validate the proposed segmentation and volume measurement on the Lung Image Database Consortium and Image Database Resource Initiative – LIDC-IDRI dataset. The first dataset is a group of 705 solid and sub-solid (assessed as part-solid and non-solid) nodules located in different regions of the lungs, and the second, more challenging, is a group of 59 sub-solid nodules. The average Dice scores of 82.35% and 71.05% for the two datasets show the good performance of the segmentation proposal. Comparisons with previous state-of-the-art techniques also show acceptable and comparable segmentation results. The volumes of the segmented nodules are measured via ellipsoid approximation. The correlation and statistical significance between the measured volumes of the segmented nodules and the ground-truth are obtained by Pearson correlation coefficient value, obtaining an R-value = 92.16% with a significance level of 5%. © 2018 Elsevier Ltd