Shape regularized active contour based on dynamic programming for anatomical structure segmentation

Tianli Yu, Jiebo Luo, Amit Singhal, Narendra Ahuja

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


We present a method to incorporate nonlinear shape prior constraints into segmenting different anatomical structures in medical images. Kernel space density estimation (KSDE) is used to derive the nonlinear shape statistics and enable building a single model for a class of objects with nonlinearly varying shapes. The object contour is coerced by image-based energy into the correct shape sub-distribution (e.g., left or right lung), without the need for model selection. In contrast to an earlier algorithm that uses a local gradient-descent search (susceptible to local minima), we propose an algorithm that iterates between dynamic programming (DP) and shape regularization. DP is capable of finding an optimal contour in the search space that maximizes a cost function related to the difference between the interior and exterior of the object. To enforce the nonlinear shape prior, we propose two shape regularization methods, global and local regularization. Global regularization is applied after each DP search to move the entire shape vector in the shape space in a gradient descent fashion to the position of probable shapes learned from training. The regularized shape is used as the starting shape for the next iteration. Local regularization is accomplished through modifying the search space of the DP. The modified search space only allows a certain amount of deformation of the local shape from the starting shape. Both regularization methods ensure the consistency between the resulted shape with the training shapes, while still preserving DP's ability to search over a large range and avoid local minima. Our algorithm was applied to two different segmentation tasks for radiographic images: lung field and clavicle segmentation. Both applications have shown that our method is effective and versatile in segmenting various anatomical structures under prior shape constraints; and it is robust to noise and local minima caused by clutter (e.g., blood vessels) and other similar structures (e.g., ribs). We believe that the proposed algorithm represents a major step in the paradigm shift to object segmentation under nonlinear shape constraints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number44
Pages (from-to)419-430
Number of pages12
JournalProgress in Biomedical Optics and Imaging - Proceedings of SPIE
Issue numberI
StatePublished - Aug 25 2005
EventMedical Imaging 2005 - Image Processing - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: Feb 13 2005Feb 17 2005


  • Active contour
  • Anatomical structure segmentation
  • Dynamic programming
  • Kernel space density estimation
  • Nonlinear shape prior constraints
  • Shape regularization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Biomaterials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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