Contour propagation using non-uniform cubic B-splines for lung tumor delineation in 4D-CT

  • Yongchuan Liu
  • Renchao Jin
  • Mi Chen
  • Enmin Song
  • Xiangyang Xu
  • Sheng Zhang
  • Chih-Cheng Hung
Original Article



Accurate target delineation is a critical step in radiotherapy. In this study, a robust contour propagation method is proposed to help physicians delineate lung tumors in four-dimensional computer tomography (4D-CT) images efficiently and accurately.


The proposed method starts with manually delineated contours on the reference phase. Each contour is fitted by a non-uniform cubic B-spline curve, and its deformation on the target phase is achieved by moving its control vertexes such that the intensity similarity between the two contours is maximized. Since contour is usually the boundary of lesion or tissue which may deform quite differently from the tissues outside the boundary, the proposed method treats each contour as a deformable entity, a non-uniform cubic B-spline curve, and focuses on the registration of contour entity instead of the entire image to avoid the deformation of contour to be smoothed by its surrounding tissues, meanwhile to greatly reduce the time consumption while keeping the accuracy of the contour propagation. Eighteen 4D-CT cases with 444 gross tumor volume (GTV) contours manually delineated slice by slice on the maximal inhale and exhale phases are used to verify the proposed method.


The Jaccard similarity coefficient (JSC) between the propagated GTV and the manually delineated GTV is 0.885 ± 0.026, and the Hausdorff distance (HD) is \(2.93\,\pm \,0.93\) mm. In addition, the time for propagating GTV to all the phases is 3.67 ± 3.41 minutes. The results are better than fast adaptive stochastic gradient descent (FASGD) B-spline method, 3D+t B-spline method and diffeomorphic Demons method.


The proposed method is useful to help physicians delineate target volumes efficiently and accurately.


Target volume delineation Contour propagation Deformable image registration Radiation therapy Lung cancer 



We would like to thank Min Chen, Professor of School of Computer Science and Technology at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, for his helpful opinions and suggestions. We acknowledge the editors and reviewers for their hard work and constructive comments. This research was partially supported by the National Science Foundation of China (61370179), the National Science and Technology Support Project Funds of China (2011BAI12B05), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities of China, HUST: 2016YXMS086 and CXY12Q030.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical standard

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent is not needed. Eighteen cases of four-dimensional computer tomography images are used in our study, seven of them are publically available, the informed consent is not needed for them. And the remaining cases are well de-identified so that it is impossible to link the records to the particular individuals. In addition, the patients involved in the remaining cases have deceased, and our study is a retrospective one, so the informed consent is also not needed for them.


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Copyright information

© CARS 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Biomedical Imaging and Bioinformatics, School of Computer Science and TechnologyHuazhong University of Science and TechnologyWuhanChina
  2. 2.The Key Laboratory of Image Processing and Intelligent ControlMinistry of EducationWuhanChina
  3. 3.Cancer Center, Union Hospital, Tongji Medical CollegeHuazhong University of Science and TechnologyWuhanChina
  4. 4.Sino-US Intelligent Information Processing Joint LabAnyang Normal UniversityAnyangChina
  5. 5.Center for Machine Vision and Security ResearchKennesaw State UniversityKennesawUSA

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