SIFT-based dense pixel tracking on 0.35 T cine-MR images acquired during image-guided radiation therapy with application to gating optimization

Thomas R. Mazur, Benjamin W. Fischer-Valuck, Yuhe Wang, Deshan Yang, Sasa Mutic, H. Harold Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Purpose: To first demonstrate the viability of applying an image processing technique for tracking regions on low-contrast cine-MR images acquired during image-guided radiation therapy, and then outline a scheme that uses tracking data for optimizing gating results in a patient-specific manner. Methods: A first-generation MR-IGRT system-treating patients since January 2014-integrates a 0.35 T MR scanner into an annular gantry consisting of three independent Co-60 sources. Obtaining adequate frame rates for capturing relevant patient motion across large fields-of-view currently requires coarse in-plane spatial resolution. This study initially (1) investigate the feasibility of rapidly tracking dense pixel correspondences across single, sagittal plane images (with both moderate signal-to-noise and spatial resolution) using a matching objective for highly descriptive vectors called scale-invariant feature transform (SIFT) descriptors associated to all pixels that describe intensity gradients in local regions around each pixel. To more accurately track features, (2) harmonic analysis was then applied to all pixel trajectories within a region-of-interest across a short training period. In particular, the procedure adjusts the motion of outlying trajectories whose relative spectral power within a frequency bandwidth consistent with respiration (or another form of periodic motion) does not exceed a threshold value that is manually specified following the training period. To evaluate the tracking reliability after applying this correction, conventional metrics-including Dice similarity coefficients (DSCs), mean tracking errors (MTEs), and Hausdorff distances (HD)-were used to compare target segmentations obtained via tracking to manually delineated segmentations. Upon confirming the viability of this descriptor-based procedure for reliably tracking features, the study (3) outlines a scheme for optimizing gating parameters-including relative target position and a tolerable margin about this position-derived from a probability density function that is constructed using tracking results obtained just prior to treatment. Results: The feasibility of applying the matching objective for SIFT descriptors toward pixel-by-pixel tracking on cine-MR acquisitions was first retrospectively demonstrated for 19 treatments (spanning various sites). Both with and without motion correction based on harmonic analysis, sub-pixel MTEs were obtained. A mean DSC value spanning all patients of 0.916 - 0.001 was obtained without motion correction, with DSC values exceeding 0.85 for all patients considered. While most patients show accurate tracking without motion correction, harmonic analysis does yield substantial gain in accuracy (defined using HDs) for three particularly challenging subjects. An application of tracking toward a gating optimization procedure was then demonstrated that should allow a physician to balance beam-on time and tissue sparing in a patient-specific manner by tuning several intuitive parameters. Conclusions: Tracking results show high fidelity in assessing intrafractional motion observed on cine-MR acquisitions. Incorporating harmonic analysis during a training period improves the robustness of the tracking for challenging targets. The concomitant gating optimization procedure should allow for physicians to quantitatively assess gating effectiveness quickly just prior to treatment in a patient-specific manner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-293
Number of pages15
JournalMedical physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • cine-MR acquisitions
  • image-guided radiation therapy
  • intrafractional motion
  • respiratory gating


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