Date of Award

12-18-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Computer Science

First Advisor

Michael Weeks

Second Advisor

Saeid Belkasim

Third Advisor

Robert Harrison

Fourth Advisor

Mukesh Dhamala

Fifth Advisor

Zhen Qian

Abstract

Coronary arteries are the blood vessels supplying oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscles. Coronary artery calcium (CAC), which is the total amount of calcium deposited in these arteries, indicates the presence or the future risk of coronary artery diseases. Quantification of CAC is done by using computed tomography (CT) scan which uses attenuation of x-ray by different tissues in the body to generate three-dimensional images. Calcium can be easily spotted in the CT images because of its higher opacity to x-ray compared to that of the surrounding tissue. However, the arteries cannot be identified easily in the CT images. Therefore, a second scan is done after injecting a patient with an x-ray opaque dye known as contrast material which makes different chambers of the heart and the coronary arteries visible in the CT scan. This procedure is known as computed tomography angiography (CTA) and is performed to assess the morphology of the arteries in order to rule out any blockage in the arteries.

The CT scan done without the use of contrast material (non-contrast-enhanced CT) can be eliminated if the calcium can be quantified accurately from the CTA images. However, identification of calcium in CTA images is difficult because of the proximity of the calcium and the contrast material and their overlapping intensity range. In this dissertation first we compare the calcium quantification by using a state-of-the-art non-contrast-enhanced CT scan method to conventional methods suggesting optimal quantification parameters. Then we develop methods to accurately quantify calcium from the CTA images. The methods include novel algorithms for extracting centerline of an artery, calculating the threshold of calcium adaptively based on the intensity of contrast along the artery, calculating the amount of calcium in mixed intensity range, and segmenting the artery and the outer wall. The accuracy of the calcium quantification from CTA by using our methods is higher than the non-contrast-enhanced CT thus potentially eliminating the need of the non-contrast-enhanced CT scan. The implications are that the total time required for the CT scan procedure, and the patient's exposure to x-ray radiation are reduced.

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