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Atrial fibrillation, a cardiac arrhythmia characterized by unsynchronized electrical activity in the atrial chambers of the heart, is a rapidly growing problem in modern societies. Electrical cardioversion and antiarrhythmic drugs are used to manage this condition, but suffer from low success rates and involve major side effects. In an alternative treatment, known as catheter ablation, specific parts of the left atrium are targeted for radio frequency ablation using an intracardiac catheter. Application of radio frequency energy to the cardiac tissue causes thermal injury (lesions), which in turn results into scar tissue. Successful ablation can eliminate, or isolate, the problematic sources of electrical activity and effectively cure atrial fibrillation.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been used for both pre- and and post-ablation assessment of the atrial wall. MRI can aid in selecting the right candidate for the ablation procedure and assessing post-ablation scar formations. Image processing techniques can be used for automatic segmentation of the atrial wall, which facilitates an accurate statistical assessment of the region. As a first step towards the general solution to the computer-assisted segmentation of the left atrial wall, in this paper we propose a shape-based image segmentation framework to segment the endocardial wall of the left atrium.

Our Approach

A powerful approach in medical image segmentation is active contour modeling wherein the boundaries of an object of interest are captured by minimizing an energy functional. The segmentation of the endocardial wall of the left atrium in delayed-enhancement magnetic resonance images (DE-MRI) using active contours is a challenging problem mainly due to the absence of clear boundaries. This usually leads either to contour leaks, where the contour expands beyond the desired boundary, or partial segmentation, where the contour only captures the desired area partially. A shape-based segmentation approach can overcome this problem by using prior shape knowledge in the segmentation process. In this research, we use shape learning and shape-based image segmentation to identify the endocardial wall of the left atrium in the delayed-enhancement magnetic resonance images.


Y. Gao, B. Gholami, R. S. MacLeod, J, Blauer, W. M. Haddad, and A. R. Tannenbaum, Segmentation of the Endocardial Wall of the Left Atrium using Local Region-Based Active Contours and Statistical Shape Learning, SPIE Medical Imaging, San Diego, CA, 2010.

Key Investigators

Georgia Tech: Behnood Gholami, Yi Gao, Wassim Haddad, and Allen Tannenbaum

University of Utah: Rob MacLeod, and Josh Blauer