An Automated Ultrasound Calibration Framework Incorporating Elevation Beamwidth for Tracked Ultrasound Interventions
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Image-guided surgeries employ advanced imaging and computing technologies to assist the surgeon when direct visualization is inadequate or unavailable. As modern surgeries continue to move toward minimally invasive procedures, tracked ultrasound (US), an emerging technology that uniquely combines US imaging and position tracking, has been increasingly used for intraoperative guidance in surgical interventions. The intrinsic accuracy of a tracked US system is primarily determined by a unique procedure called ``probe calibration", where a spatial registration between the coordinate systems of the transducer (provided by a tracking device affixed to the probe) and the US image plane must be established prior to imaging. Inaccurate system calibration causes misalignments between the US image and the surgical end-effectors, which may directly contribute to treatment failure. The probe calibration quality is further reduced by the "elevation beamwidth" or "slice thickness", a unique feature of the ultrasound beam pattern that gives rise to localization errors and imaging uncertainties. In this thesis, we aim to provide an automated, pure-computation-based, intraoperative calibration solution that also incorporates the slice thickness to improve the calibration accuracy, precision and reliability. The following contributions have been made during the course of this research. First, we have designed and developed an automated, freehand US calibration system with instant feedback on its calibration accuracy. The system was able to consistently achieve submillimeter accuracy with real-time performance. Furthermore, we have developed a novel beamwidth-weighted calibration framework (USB-FW) that incorporates US slice thickness to improve the estimation of calibration parameters. The new framework provides an effective means of quality control for calibration results. Extensive phantom validation demonstrated that USB-FW introduces statistically significant reduction (p = 0.001) in the calibration errors and produces calibration outcomes that are less variable than a conventional, non-beamwidth-weighted calibration. Finally, we were the first to introduce an automated, intraoperative Transrectal Ultrasound (TRUS) calibration technology for needle guidance in prostate brachytherapy. Our tests with multiple commercial TRUS scanners and brachytherapy stepper systems demonstrated that the proposed method is practical in use and can achieve high calibration accuracy, precision and robustness.
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