Accurate liver segmentation is an important component of surgery planning for liver transplantation, which enables patients with liver disease a chance to survive. Spectral pre-saturation inversion recovery (SPIR) image sequences are useful for liver vessel segmentation because vascular structures in the liver are clearly visible in these sequences. Although level-set based segmentation techniques are frequently used in liver segmentation due to their flexibility to adapt to different problems by incorporating prior knowledge, the need to initialize the contours on each slice is a common drawback of such techniques. In this paper, we present a fully automated variational level set approach for liver segmentation from SPIR image sequences. Our approach is designed to be efficient while achieving high accuracy. The efficiency is achieved by (1) automatically defining an initial contour for each slice, and (2) automatically computing weight values of each term in the applied energy functional at each iteration during evolution. Automated detection and exclusion of spurious structures (e.g. cysts and other bright white regions on the skin) in the pre-processing stage increases the accuracy and robustness. We also present a novel approach to reduce computational cost by employing binary regularization of level set function. A signed pressure force function controls the evolution of the active contour. The method was applied to ten data sets. In each image, the performance of the algorithm was measured using the receiver operating characteristics method in terms of accuracy, sensitivity and specificity. The accuracy of the proposed method was 96%. Quantitative analyses of results indicate that the proposed method can accurately, efficiently and consistently segment liver images.
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