An unsupervised semi-automated pulmonary nodule segmentation method based on enhanced region growing

He Ren, Lingxiao Zhou, Gang Liu, Xueqing Peng, Weiya Shi, Huilin Xu, Fei Shan, Lei Liu


Background: Nowadays, computer technology is getting popular for clinical aided diagnosis, especially in the direction of medical images. It makes physician diagnosis of lung nodules more efficient by providing them with reliable and accurate segmentation.
Methods: A region growing based semi-automated pulmonary nodule segmentation algorithm (ReGANS) was developed with three improvements: an automatic threshold calculation method, a lesion area pre- projection method, and an optimized region growing method. The algorithm can quickly and accurately segment a whole lung nodule in a set of computed tomography (CT) images based on an initial manual point.
Results: The average time taken for ReGANS to segment 1 pulmonary nodule was 0.83s, and the probability rand index (PRI), global consistency error (GCE), and variation of information (VoI) from a comparison between the algorithm and the radiologist’s 2 manual results were 0.93, 0.06, and 0.3 for the boundary range (BR), and 0.86, 0.06, 0.3 for the precise range (PR). The number of images covered by one pulmonary nodule in a CT image set was also evaluated to compare the segmentation algorithm with the radiologist's results, with an error rate of 15%. At the same time, the results were verified in multiple data sets to validate the robustness.
Conclusions: Compared with other algorithms, ReGANS can segment the lung nodule image region more quickly and more precisely. The experimental results show that ReGANS can assist medical imaging diagnosis and has good clinical application value. It also provides a faster and more convenient method for pre-data preparation of intelligent algorithms.