Improving the Automated Detection of Calcifications using Adaptive Variance Stabilization

A. Bria, C. Marrocco, L.R. Borges, M. Molinara, A. Marchesi, J.-J. Mordang, N. Karssemeijer and F. Tortorella

IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging 2018;37(8):1857-1864



In this work, we analyze how stabilizing the variance of intensity-dependent quantum noise in digital mammograms can significantly improve the computerized detection of microcalcifications (MCs). These lesions appear on mammograms as tiny deposits of calcium smaller than 20 pixels in diameter. At this scale, high frequency image noise is dominated by quantum noise, which in raw mammograms can be described with a squareroot noise model. Under this assumption, we derive an adaptive variance stabilizing transform (VST) that stabilizes the noise to unitary standard deviation in all the images. This is achieved by estimating the noise characteristics from the image at hand. We tested the adaptive VST as a preprocessing stage for four existing computerized MC detection methods on three datasets acquired with mammographic units from different manufacturers. In all the test cases considered, MC detection performance on transformed mammograms was statistically significantly higher than on unprocessed mammograms. Results were also superior in comparison with a 'fixed' (nonparametric) VST previously proposed for digital mammograms.

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