A Valid and Precise Semiautomated Method for Quantifying INTERmuscular Fat INTRAmuscular Fat in Lower Leg Magnetic Resonance Images
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The accumulation of INTERmuscular fat and INTRAmuscular fat (IMF) has been a hallmark of individuals with diabetes, those with mobility impairments such as spinal cord injuries and is known to increase with aging. An elevated amount of IMF has been associated with fractures and frailty, but the imprecision of IMF measurement has so far limited the ability to observe more consistent clinical associations. Magnetic resonance imaging has been recognized as the gold standard for portraying these features, yet reliable methods for quantifying IMF on magnetic resonance imaging is far from standardized. Previous investigators used manual segmentation guided by histogram-based region-growing, but these techniques are subjective and have not demonstrated reliability. Others applied fuzzy classification, machine learning, and atlas-based segmentation methods, but each is limited by the complexity of implementation or by the need for a learning set, which must be established each time a new disease cohort is examined. In this paper, a simple convergent iterative threshold-optimizing algorithm was explored. The goal of the algorithm is to enable IMF quantification from plain fast spin echo (FSE) T1-weighted MR images or from water-saturated images. The algorithm can be programmed into Matlab easily, and is semiautomated, thus minimizing the subjectivity of threshold-selection. In 110 participants from 3 cohort studies, IMF area measurement demonstrated a high degree of reproducibility with errors well within the 5% benchmark for intraobserver, interobserver, and test-retest analyses; in contrast to manual segmentation which already yielded over 20% error for intraobserver analysis. This algorithm showed validity against manual segmentations (r > 0.85). The simplicity of this technique lends itself to be applied to fast spin echo images commonly ordered as part of standard of care and does not require more advanced fat-water separated images.
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