H.J. Kuijf, M. Brundel, J. de Bresser, S.J. van Veluw, S.M. Heringa, M.A. Viergever, G.J. Biessels, K.L. Vincken

Cerebral microbleeds are associated with vascular disease and dementia. They can be detected on MRI and receive increasing attention. Visual rating is the current standard for microbleed detection, but is rater dependent, has limited reproducibility, modest sensitivity, and can be time-consuming. The goal of the current study is to present a tool for semi-automated detection of microbleeds that can assist human raters in the rating procedure.

The radial symmetry transform is originally a technique to highlight circular-shaped objects in two-dimensional images. In the current study, the three-dimensional radial symmetry transform was adapted to detect spherical microbleeds in a series of 72 patients from our hospital, for whom a ground truth visual rating was made by four raters. Potential microbleeds were automatically identified on T2*-weighted 3.0 T MRI scans and the results were visually checked to identify microbleeds. Final ratings of the radial symmetry transform were compared to human ratings.

After implementing and optimizing the radial symmetry transform, the method achieved a high sensitivity, while maintaining a modest number of false positives. Depending on the settings, sensitivities ranged from 65%-84% compared to the ground truth rating. Rating of the processed images required 1-2 minutes per participant, in which 20-96 false positive locations per participant were censored. Sensitivities of individual raters ranged from 39%-86% compared to the ground truth and required 5-10 minutes per participant per rater.

The sensitivities that were achieved by the radial symmetry transform are similar to those of individual experienced human raters, demonstrating its feasibility and usefulness for semi-automated microbleed detection.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0066610