The reliability of a segmentation methodology for assessing intramuscular adipose tissue and other soft-tissue compartments of lower leg MRI images
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OBJECTIVE: Determine the reliability of a magnetic resonance (MR) image segmentation protocol for quantifying intramuscular adipose tissue (IntraMAT), subcutaneous adipose tissue, total muscle and intermuscular adipose tissue (InterMAT) of the lower leg. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Ten axial lower leg MRI slices were obtained from 21 postmenopausal women using a 1 Tesla peripheral MRI system. Images were analyzed using sliceOmatic™ software. The average cross-sectional areas of the tissues were computed for the ten slices. Intra-rater and inter-rater reliability were determined and expressed as the standard error of measurement (SEM) (absolute reliability) and intraclass coefficient (ICC) (relative reliability). RESULTS: Intra-rater and inter-rater reliability for IntraMAT were 0.991 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.978-0.996, p < 0.05) and 0.983 (95% CI 0.958-9.993, p < 0.05), respectively. For the other soft tissue compartments, the ICCs were all >0.90 (p < 0.05). The absolute intra-rater and inter-rater reliability (expressed as SEM) for segmenting IntraMAT were 22.19 mm(2) (95% CI 16.97-32.04) and 78.89 mm(2) (95% CI 60.36-113.92), respectively. CONCLUSION: This is a reliable segmentation protocol for quantifying IntraMAT and other soft-tissue compartments of the lower leg. A standard operating procedure manual is provided to assist users, and SEM values can be used to estimate sample size and determine confidence in repeated measurements in future research.
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