The identifying or sensitive anatomical features in MR and CT images used in research raise patient privacy concerns when such data are shared. In order to protect human subject privacy, we developed a method of anatomical surface modification and investigated the effects of such modification on image statistics and common neuroimaging processing tools. Common approaches to obscuring facial features typically remove large portions of the voxels. The approach described here focuses on blurring the anatomical surface instead, to avoid impinging on areas of interest and hard edges that can confuse processing tools. The algorithm proceeds by extracting a thin boundary layer containing surface anatomy from a region of interest. This layer is then "stretched" and "flattened" to fit into a thin "box" volume. After smoothing along a plane roughly parallel to anatomy surface, this volume is transformed back onto the boundary layer of the original data. The above method, named normalized anterior filtering, was coded in MATLAB and applied on a number of high resolution MR and CT scans. To test its effect on automated tools, we compared the output of selected common skull stripping and MR gain field correction methods used on unmodified and obscured data. With this paper, we hope to improve the understanding of the effect of surface deformation approaches on the quality of de-identified data and to provide a useful de-identification tool for MR and CT acquisitions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-75
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • 3D
  • Biomedical imaging
  • CT imaging
  • Facial recognition
  • MR imaging
  • Privacy


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