Comparative evaluation of despeckle filtering in ultrasound imaging of the carotid artery

Loizou, C.P., Pattichis, C.S., Christodoulou, C.I., Istepanian, R. S. H., Pantziaris, M. and Nicolaides, A (2005) Comparative evaluation of despeckle filtering in ultrasound imaging of the carotid artery. IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control, 52(10), pp. 1653-1669. ISSN (print) 0885-3010


It is well-known that speckle is a multiplicative noise that degrades the visual evaluation in ultrasound imaging. The recent advancements in ultrasound instrumentation and portable ultrasound devices necessitate the need of more robust despeckling techniques for enhanced ultrasound medical imaging for both routine clinical practice and teleconsultation. The objective of this work was to carry out a comparative evaluation of despeckle filtering based on texture analysis, image quality evaluation metrics, and visual evaluation by medical experts in the assessment of 440 (220 asymptomatic and 220 symptomatic) ultrasound images of the carotid artery bifurcation. In this paper a total of 10 despeckle filters were evaluated based on local statistics, median filtering, pixel homogeneity, geometric filtering, homomorphic filtering, anisotropic diffusion, nonlinear coherence diffusion, and wavelet filtering. The results of this study suggest that the first order statistics filter lsmv, gave the best performance, followed by the geometric filter gf4d, and the homogeneous mask area filter lsminsc. These filters improved the class separation between the asymptomatic and the symptomatic classes based on the statistics of the extracted texture features, gave only a marginal improvement in the classification success rate, and improved the visual assessment carried out by the two experts. More specifically, filters lsmv or gf4d can be used for despeckling asymptomatic images in which the expert is interested mainly in the plaque composition and texture analysis; and filters lsmv, gf4d, or lsminsc can be used for the despeckling of symptomatic images in which the expert is interested in identifying the degree of stenosis and the plaque borders. The proper selection of a despeckle filter is very important in the enhancement of ultrasonic imaging of the carotid artery. Further work is needed to evaluate at a larger scale and in clinical practice the performance of the proposed despeckle filters in the automated segmentation, texture analysis, and classification of carotid ultrasound imaging.

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