Prostate segmentation by sparse representation based classification

Yaozong Gao, Shu Liao, Dinggang Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The segmentation of prostate in CT images is of essential importance to external beam radiotherapy, which is one of the major treatments for prostate cancer nowadays. During the radiotherapy, the prostate is radiated by high-energy x rays from different directions. In order to maximize the dose to the cancer and minimize the dose to the surrounding healthy tissues (e.g., bladder and rectum), the prostate in the new treatment image needs to be accurately localized. Therefore, the effectiveness and efficiency of external beam radiotherapy highly depend on the accurate localization of the prostate. However, due to the low contrast of the prostate with its surrounding tissues (e.g., bladder), the unpredicted prostate motion, and the large appearance variations across different treatment days, it is challenging to segment the prostate in CT images. In this paper, the authors present a novel classification based segmentation method to address these problems. Methods: To segment the prostate, the proposed method first uses sparse representation based classification (SRC) to enhance the prostate in CT images by pixel-wise classification, in order to overcome the limitation of poor contrast of the prostate images. Then, based on the classification results, previous segmented prostates of the same patient are used as patient-specific atlases to align onto the current treatment image and the majority voting strategy is finally adopted to segment the prostate. In order to address the limitations of the traditional SRC in pixel-wise classification, especially for the purpose of segmentation, the authors extend SRC from the following four aspects: (1) A discriminant subdictionary learning method is proposed to learn a discriminant and compact representation of training samples for each class so that the discriminant power of SRC can be increased and also SRC can be applied to the large-scale pixel-wise classification. (2) The L1 regularized sparse coding is replaced by the elastic net in order to obtain a smooth and clear prostate boundary in the classification result. (3) Residue-based linear regression is incorporated to improve the classification performance and to extend SRC from hard classification to soft classification. (4) Iterative SRC is proposed by using context information to iteratively refine the classification results. Results: The proposed method has been comprehensively evaluated on a dataset consisting of 330 CT images from 24 patients. The effectiveness of the extended SRC has been validated by comparing it with the traditional SRC based on the proposed four extensions. The experimental results show that our extended SRC can obtain not only more accurate classification results but also smoother and clearer prostate boundary than the traditional SRC. Besides, the comparison with other five state-of-the-art prostate segmentation methods indicates that our method can achieve better performance than other methods under comparison. Conclusions: The authors have proposed a novel prostate segmentation method based on the sparse representation based classification, which can achieve considerably accurate segmentation results in CT prostate segmentation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6372-6387
Number of pages16
JournalMedical physics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Oct

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by NIH grant CA140413, by National Science Foundation of China under Grant No. 61075010, and also by The National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program) Grant No. 2010CB732505.


  • classification
  • image-guided radiation therapy
  • prostate CT images
  • segmentation
  • sparse representation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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