An extensible software platform for interdisciplinary cardiovascular imaging research
Background and objective Cardiovascular imaging is an exponentially growing field with aspects ranging from image acquisition and analysis to disease characterization, and evaluation of therapy approaches.The transfer of innovative new technological and algorithmic solutions into clinical practice is still slow. In addition to the verification of solutions, their integration in the clinical processing workflow must be enabled for the assessment of clinical impact and risks. The goal of our software platform for cardiac image processing - CAIPI - is to support researchers from different specialties such as imaging physics, computer science, and medicine by a common extensible platform to address typical challenges and hurdles in interdisciplinary cardiovascular imaging research. It provides an integrated solution for method comparison, integrated analysis, and validation in the clinical context. The interface concept enables a combination with existing frameworks that address specific aspects of the pipeline, such as modeling (e.g., OpenCMISS, CARP) or image reconstruction (Gadgetron). Methods In our platform, we developed a concept for import, integration, and management of cardiac image data. The integration approach considers the spatiotemporal properties of the beating heart through a specific data model. The solution is based on MeVisLab and provides functionalities for data retrieval and storage. Two types of plugins can be added. While ToolPlugins usually provide processing algorithms such as image correction and segmentation, AnalysisPlugins enable interactive data exploration and reporting. GUI integration concepts are presented for both plugin types. We developed domain-specific reporting and visualization tools (e.g., AHA segment model) to enable validation studies by clinical experts. The platform offers plugins for calculating and reporting quantitative parameters such as cardiac function, which can be used to, e.g., evaluate the effect of processing algorithms on clinical parameters. Export functionalities include quantitative measurements to Excel, image data to PACS, and STL models to modeling and simulation tools. Results To demonstrate the applicability of this concept both for method development and clinical application, we present use cases representing different problems along the innovation chain in cardiac MR imaging. Validation of an image reconstruction method (MRI T1 mapping) Validation of an image correction method for real-time 2D-PC MRI Comparison of quantification methods for blood flow analysis Training and integration of machine learning solutions with expert annotations Clinical studies with new imaging techniques (flow measurements in the carotid arteries and peripheral veins as well as cerebral spinal fluid). Conclusion The presented platform can be used in interdisciplinary teams, in which engineers or data scientists perform the method validation, followed by clinical research studies in patient collectives. The demonstrated use cases show how it enables the transfer of innovations through validation in the cardiovascular application context.