Automated Breast Segmentation of Fat and Water MR Images Using Dynamic Programming

José A. Rosado-Toro, Tomoe Barr, Jean Philippe Galons, Marilyn T. Marron, Alison Stopeck, Cynthia Thomson, Patricia Thompson, Danielle Carroll, Eszter Wolf, María I. Altbach, Jeffrey J. Rodríguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Rationale and Objectives: To develop and test an algorithm that outlines the breast boundaries using information from fat and water magnetic resonance images. Materials and Methods: Three algorithms were implemented and tested using registered fat and water magnetic resonance images. Two of the segmentation algorithms are simple extensions of the techniques used for contrast-enhanced images: one algorithm uses clustering and local gradient (CLG) analysis and the other algorithm uses a Hessian-based sheetness filter (HSF). The third segmentation algorithm uses k-means++ and dynamic programming (KDP) for finding the breast pixels. All three algorithms separate the left and right breasts using either a fixed region or a morphological method. The performance is quantified using a mutual overlap (Dice) metric and a pectoral muscle boundary error. The algorithms are evaluated against three manual tracers using 266 breast images from 14 female subjects. Results: The KDP algorithm has a mean overlap percentage improvement that is statistically significant relative to the HSF and CLG algorithms. When using a fixed region to remove the tissue between breasts with tracer 1 as a reference, the KDP algorithm has a mean overlap of 0.922 compared to 0.864 (. P<.01) for HSF and 0.843 (. P<.01) for CLG. The performance of KDP is very similar to tracers 2 (0.926 overlap) and 3 (0.929 overlap). The performance analysis in terms of pectoral muscle boundary error showed that the fraction of the muscle boundary within three pixels of reference tracer 1 is 0.87 using KDP compared to 0.578 for HSF and 0.617 for CLG. Our results show that the performance of the KDP algorithm is independent of breast density. Conclusions: We developed a new automated segmentation algorithm (KDP) to isolate breast tissue from magnetic resonance fat and water images. KDP outperforms the other techniques that focus on local analysis (CLG and HSF) and yields a performance similar to human tracers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-148
Number of pages10
JournalAcademic radiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


  • Automated breast segmentation
  • Breast MRI
  • Dynamic programming
  • Fat-water MRI
  • K-means++

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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