Detection of white matter lesions in cerebral small vessel disease
White matter lesions (WML) are diffuse white matter abnormalities commonly found in older subjects and are important indicators of stroke, multiple sclerosis, dementia and other disorders. We present an automated WML detection method and evaluate it on a dataset of small vessel disease (SVD) patients. In early SVD, small WMLs are expected to be of importance for the prediction of disease progression. Commonly used WML segmentation methods tend to ignore small WMLs and are mostly validated on the basis of total lesion load or a Dice coefficient for all detected WMLs. Therefore, in this paper, we present a method that is designed to detect individual lesions, large or small, and we validate the detection performance of our system with FROC (free-response ROC) analysis. For the automated detection, we use supervised classification making use of multimodal voxel based features from different magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sequences, including intensities, tissue probabilities, voxel locations and distances, neighborhood textures and others. After preprocessing, including co-registration, brain extraction, bias correction, intensity normalization, and nonlinear registration, ventricle segmentation is performed and features are calculated for each brain voxel. A gentle-boost classifier is trained using these features from 50 manually annotated subjects to give each voxel a probability of being a lesion voxel. We perform ROC analysis to illustrate the benefits of using additional features to the commonly used voxel intensities; significantly increasing the area under the curve (Az) from 0.81 to 0.96 (p<0.05). We perform the FROC analysis by testing our classifier on 50 previously unseen subjects and compare the results with manual annotations performed by two experts. Using the first annotator results as our reference, the second annotat or performs at a sensitivity of 0.90 with an average of 41 false positives per subject while our automated method reached the same level of sensitivity at approximately 180 false positives per subject.