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American Association of Physicists in Medicine
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Purpose: Digital x-ray tomosynthesis (DTS) has the potential to provide 3D information about the knee joint in a load-bearing posture, which may improve diagnosis and monitoring of knee osteoarthritis compared with projection radiography, the current standard of care. Manually quantifying and visualizing the joint space width (JSW) from 3D tomosynthesis datasets may be challenging. This work developed a semiautomated algorithm for quantifying the 3D tibiofemoral JSW from reconstructed DTS images. The algorithm was validated through anthropomorphic phantom experiments and applied to three clinical datasets. Methods: A user-selected volume of interest within the reconstructed DTS volume was enhanced with 1D multiscale gradient kernels. The edge-enhanced volumes were divided by polarity into tibial and femoral edge maps and combined across kernel scales. A 2D connected components algorithm was performed to determine candidate tibial and femoral edges. A 2D joint space width map (JSW) was constructed to represent the 3D tibiofemoral joint space. To quantify the algorithm accuracy, an adjustable knee phantom was constructed, and eleven posterior–anterior (PA) and lateral DTS scans were acquired with the medial minimum JSW of the phantom set to 0–5 mm in 0.5 mm increments (VolumeRadTM, GE Healthcare, Chalfont St. Giles, United Kingdom). The accuracy of the algorithm was quantified by comparing the minimum JSW in a region of interest in the medial compartment of the JSW map to the measured phantom setting for each trial. In addition, the algorithm was applied to DTS scans of a static knee phantom and the JSW map compared to values estimated from a manually segmented computed tomography (CT) dataset. The algorithm was also applied to three clinical DTS datasets of osteoarthritic patients. Results: The algorithm segmented the JSW and generated a JSW map for all phantom and clinical datasets. For the adjustable phantom, the estimated minimum JSW values were plotted against the measured values for all trials. A linear fit estimated a slope of 0.887 (R2¼0.962) and a mean error across all trials of 0.34 mm for the PA phantom data. The estimated minimum JSW values for the lateral adjustable phantom acquisitions were found to have low correlation to the measured values (R2¼0.377), with a mean error of 2.13 mm. The error in the lateral adjustable-phantom datasets appeared to be caused by artifacts due to unrealistic features in the phantom bones. JSW maps generated by DTS and CT varied by a mean of 0.6 mm and 0.8 mm across the knee joint, for PA and lateral scans. The tibial and femoral edges were successfully segmented and JSW maps determined for PA and lateral clinical DTS datasets. Conclusions: A semiautomated method is presented for quantifying the 3D joint space in a 2D JSW map using tomosynthesis images. The proposed algorithm quantified the JSW across the knee joint to sub-millimeter accuracy for PA tomosynthesis acquisitions. Overall, the results suggest that x-ray tomosynthesis may be beneficial for diagnosing and monitoring disease progression or treatment of osteoarthritis by providing quantitative images of JSW in the load-bearing knee.