Quantitative follow-up of patients with multiple sclerosis using MRI: technical aspects


R Kikinis, CR Guttmann, D Metcalf, WM Wells, GJ Ettinger, HL Weiner, and FA Jolesz. 1999. “Quantitative follow-up of patients with multiple sclerosis using MRI: technical aspects.” J Magn Reson Imaging, 9, 4, Pp. 519-30.


A highly reproducible automated procedure for quantitative analysis of serial brain magnetic resonance (MR) images was developed for use in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). The intracranial cavity (ICC) was identified on standard dual-echo spin-echo brain MR images using a supervised automated procedure. MR images obtained from one MS patient at 24 time points in the course of a 1-year follow-up were aligned with the images of one of the time points. Next, the contents of the ICC in each MR exam were segmented into four tissues, using a self-adaptive statistical algorithm. Misclassifications due to partial voluming were corrected using a combination of morphologic operators and connectivity criteria. Finally, a connectivity detection algorithm was used to separate the tissue classified as lesions into individual entities. Registration, classification of the contents of the ICC, and identification of individual lesions are fully automatic. Only identification of the ICC requires operator interaction. In each MR exam, the program estimated volumes for the ICC, gray matter (GM), white matter (WM), white matter lesions (WML), and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The reproducibility of the system was superior to that of supervised segmentation, as evidenced by the coefficient of variation: CSF supervised 45.9% vs. automated 7.7%, GM 16.0% vs. 1.4%, WM 15.7% vs. 1.3%, and WML 39.5% vs 52.0%. Our results demonstrate that this computerized procedure allows routine reproducible quantitative analysis of large serial MRI data sets.