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Motion tracking in the liver: Validation of a method based on 4D ultrasound using a nonrigid registration technique


Treatments like radiotherapy and focused ultrasound in the abdomen require accurate motion tracking, in order to optimize dosage delivery to the target and minimize damage to critical structures and healthy tissues around the target. 4D ultrasound is a promising modality for motion tracking during such treatments. In this study, the authors evaluate the accuracy of motion tracking in the liver based on deformable registration of 4D ultrasound images.

The offline analysis was performed using a nonrigid registration algorithm that was specifically designed for motion estimation from dynamic imaging data. The method registers the entire 4D image data sequence in a groupwise optimization fashion, thus avoiding a bias toward a specifically chosen reference time point. Three healthy volunteers were scanned over several breathing cycles (12 s) from three different positions and angles on the abdomen; a total of nine 4D scans for the three volunteers. Well-defined anatomic landmarks were manually annotated in all 96 time frames for assessment of the automatic algorithm. The error of the automatic motion estimation method was compared with interobserver variability. The authors also performed experiments to investigate the influence of parameters defining the deformation field flexibility and evaluated how well the method performed with a lower temporal resolution in order to establish the minimum frame rate required for accurate motion estimation.

The registration method estimated liver motion with an error of 1 mm (75% percentile over all datasets), which was lower than the interobserver variability of 1.4 mm. The results were only slightly dependent on the degrees of freedom of the deformation model. The registration error increased to 2.8 mm with an eight times lower temporal resolution.

The authors conclude that the methodology was able to accurately track the motion of the liver in the 4D ultrasound data. The authors believe that the method has potential in interventions on moving abdominal organs such as MR or ultrasound guided focused ultrasound therapy and radiotherapy, pending the method is enabled to run in real-time. The data and the annotations used for this study are made publicly available for those who would like to test other methods on 4D liver ultrasound data.


Academic article





  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • University Medical Center Rotterdam
  • SINTEF Digital / Health Research
  • St. Olavs Hospital, Trondheim University Hospital



Published in

Medical Physics (Lancaster)







View this publication at Cristin