Automatic localization of vertebral levels in x-ray fluoroscopy using 3D-2D registration: A tool to reduce wrong-site surgery

Y. Otake, S. Schafer, J. W. Stayman, W. Zbijewski, G. Kleinszig, R. Graumann, A. J. Khanna, J. H. Siewerdsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Surgical targeting of the incorrect vertebral level (wrong-level surgery) is among the more common wrong-site surgical errors, attributed primarily to the lack of uniquely identifiable radiographic landmarks in the mid-thoracic spine. The conventional localization method involves manual counting of vertebral bodies under fluoroscopy, is prone to human error and carries additional time and dose. We propose an image registration and visualization system (referred to as LevelCheck), for decision support in spine surgery by automatically labeling vertebral levels in fluoroscopy using a GPU-accelerated, intensity-based 3D-2D (namely CT-to-fluoroscopy) registration. A gradient information (GI) similarity metric and a CMA-ES optimizer were chosen due to their robustness and inherent suitability for parallelization. Simulation studies involved ten patient CT datasets from which 50000 simulated fluoroscopic images were generated from C-arm poses selected to approximate the C-arm operator and positioning variability. Physical experiments used an anthropomorphic chest phantom imaged under real fluoroscopy. The registration accuracy was evaluated as the mean projection distance (mPD) between the estimated and true center of vertebral levels. Trials were defined as successful if the estimated position was within the projection of the vertebral body (namely mPD <5mm). Simulation studies showed a success rate of 99.998% (1 failure in 50000 trials) and computation time of 4.7s on a midrange GPU. Analysis of failure modes identified cases of false local optima in the search space arising from longitudinal periodicity in vertebral structures. Physical experiments demonstrated the robustness of the algorithm against quantum noise and x-ray scatter. The ability to automatically localize target anatomy in fluoroscopy in near-real-time could be valuable in reducing the occurrence of wrong-site surgery while helping to reduce radiation exposure. The method is applicable beyond the specific case of vertebral labeling, since any structure defined in pre-operative (or intra-operative) CT or cone-beam CT can be automatically registered to the fluoroscopic scene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5485-5508
Number of pages24
JournalPhysics in medicine and biology
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 7 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


Dive into the research topics of 'Automatic localization of vertebral levels in x-ray fluoroscopy using 3D-2D registration: A tool to reduce wrong-site surgery'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this