Automated measurement of radiographic hip joint-space width
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Radiographic joint-space narrowing (JSN) is the principle indicator of cartilage loss in osteoarthritis (OA). JSN is usually assessed qualitatively by visual inspection or in clinical research, is measured manually with a graduated handheld lens directly applied to the x-ray film, or from digitized radiographs by hand tracing the joint margins with a mouse. The minimum joint-space width (mJSW) and joint-space area (JSA) are recorded as the indices of OA progression in epidemiological studies and clinical drug trials. We present a computerized method that automatically finds the articular margins of the hip to improve determination of mJSW and JSA. The algorithm requires that three seed points are manually identified on the femoral head and uses three steps to process each digitized hip x-ray. First, a Hough transform finds the center and radius (R) of a circle that approximates the femoral head. Finding R indicates whether magnification differences must be corrected on repeat exams. Second, a gradient algorithm finds the edge of the femoral head and acetabulum. Third, the mid-line of the femoral neck is automatically found and used to define the joint portion (theta) that is assessed for narrowing. theta is fixed for follow-up exams of the same subject. The algorithm was evaluated in three ways to determine its performance characteristics. First, the inter-reader and intra-reader variability for mJSW and JSA associated with the selection of the seed points was found to be negligible (< 1%) compared to the variability associated with manual scoring with a lens or by tracing the joint margins with a mouse. Second, from duplicate hip x-rays of 19 subjects with OA, the Root Mean Square Standard Deviation and coefficient of variation for mJSW and JSA defined by the algorithm was determined to be better than manual techniques by at least a factor of 2. Third, the algorithm correctly identified the joint margin in more than 85% of the 105 cases tested. Automated measures of radiographic hip joint-space narrowing is less subjective than manual methods and may be applicable for monitoring OA progression in clinical research.
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