Improving Reliability of pQCT-Derived Muscle Area and Density Measures Using a Watershed Algorithm for Muscle and Fat Segmentation
Additional Document Info
In peripheral quantitative computed tomography scans of the calf muscles, segmentation of muscles from subcutaneous fat is challenged by muscle fat infiltration. Threshold-based edge detection segmentation by manufacturer software fails when muscle boundaries are not smooth. This study compared the test-retest precision error for muscle-fat segmentation using the threshold-based edge detection method vs manual segmentation guided by the watershed algorithm. Three clinical populations were investigated: younger adults, older adults, and adults with spinal cord injury (SCI). The watershed segmentation method yielded lower precision error (1.18%-2.01%) and higher (p<0.001) muscle density values (70.2±9.2 mg/cm3) compared with threshold-based edge detection segmentation (1.77%-4.06% error, 67.4±10.3 mg/cm3). This was particularly true for adults with SCI (precision error improved by 1.56% and 2.64% for muscle area and density, respectively). However, both methods still provided acceptable precision with error well under 5%. Bland-Altman analyses showed that the major discrepancies between the segmentation methods were found mostly among participants with SCI where more muscle fat infiltration was present. When examining a population where fatty infiltration into muscle is expected, the watershed algorithm is recommended for muscle density and area measurement to enable the detection of smaller change effect sizes.