Vascular Pattern Characterization in Colonoscopy Images
Thesis director: Fernando Vilariño (Computer Vision Center)
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide and the second most common malignant tumor in Europe. Screening tests have shown to be very effective in increasing the survival rates since they allow an early detection of polyps. Among the different screening techniques, colonoscopy is considered the gold standard although clinical studies mention several problems that have an impact in the quality of the procedure. The navigation through the rectum and colon track can be challenging for the physicians which can increase polyp miss rates. The thorough visualization of the colon track must be ensured so that the chances of missing lesions are minimized. The visual analysis of colonoscopy images can provide important information to the physicians and support their navigation during the procedure. Blood vessels and their branching patterns can provide descriptive power to potentially develop biometric markers. Anatomical markers based on blood vessel patterns could be used to identify a particular scene in colonoscopy videos and to support endoscope navigation by generating a sequence of ordered scenes through the different colon sections. By verifying the presence of vascular content in the endoluminal scene it is also possible to certify a proper inspection of the colon mucosa and to improve polyp localization. Considering the potential uses of blood vessel description, this contribution studies the characterization of the vascular content and the analysis of the descriptive power of its branching patterns. Blood vessel characterization in colonoscopy images is shown to be a challenging task. The endoluminal scene is conformed by several elements whose similar characteristics hinder the development of particular models for each of them. To overcome such difficulties we propose the use of the blood vessel branching characteristics as key features for pattern description. We present a model to characterize junctions in binary patterns. The implementation of the junction model allows us to develop a junction localization method. We created two data sets including manually labeled vessel information as well as manual ground truths of two types of keypoint landmarks: junctions and endpoints. The proposed method outperforms the available algorithms in the literature in experiments in both, our newly created colon vessel data set, and in DRIVE retinal fundus image data set. In the latter case, we created a manual ground truth of junction coordinates. Since we want to explore the descriptive potential of junctions and vessels, we propose a graph-based approach to create anatomical markers. In the context of polyp localization, we present a new method to inhibit the influence of blood vessels in the extraction valley-profile information. The results show that our methodology decreases vessel influence, increases polyp information and leads to an improvement in state-of-the-art polyp localization performance. We also propose a polyp-specific segmentation method that outperforms other general and particular approaches.