Precise determination of aortic length in patients with aortic stent grafts: in vivo evaluation of a thinning algorithm applied to CT angiography data
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The aim of this study was to develop a technique for precise determination of the aortic length using volumetric CT data for potential use prior to endovascular stent-graft placement. The study population consisted of 20 patients (38 measurements) with already performed endoluminal grafting. This allowed for in vivo evaluation of our technique. Its length according to the graft specifications served as a gold standard for our own measurements. The implemented graft length varied between 120 and 195 mm. Computed tomography angiography was performed with 3-mm slice collimation, 5-mm table feed and a reconstruction interval of 2 mm. Following semi-automatic segmentation of the aorta and its large side branches, the median centerline (skeleton) of the vessels was determined employing a modified three-dimensional thinning algorithm. The algorithm was validated by comparing the calculated length of the resulting skeleton with the specifications of the grafts. The calculated length was sufficiently precise despite the limiting reconstruction interval of 2 mm of our CT data which only permitted an assessment of stent length in 2-mm steps. The differences in the measured length and graft length were in the range between 0 and 8 mm ( < 5 %) with a mean fractional error of 2.46 ± 2.37 mm. The use of an intelligent region growing algorithm capable of coping with variable arterial enhancement significantly reduced operator post-processing time. The average time necessary for segmentation was 7 min (range 3–10 min). Our algorithm provides a non-invasive method for objective and precise measurement of aortic length apparently even in tortuous vessels. It has the potential to replace angiography for aortic and iliac length measurements with calibrated catheters prior to endovascular intervention.
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