Performance variations among clinically available deformable image registration tools in adaptive radiotherapy - How should we evaluate and interpret the result?

Ke Nie, Jean Pouliot, Eric Smith, Cynthia Chuang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study is to evaluate the performance variations in commercial deformable image registration (DIR) tools for adaptive radiation therapy and further to interpret the differences using clinically available terms. Three clinical examples (prostate, head and neck (HN), and cranial spinal irradiation (CSI) with L-spine boost) were evaluated in this study. Firstly, computerized deformed CT images were generated using simulation QA software with virtual deformations of bladder filling (prostate), neck flexion/bite-block repositioning/tumor shrinkage (HN), and vertebral body rotation (CSI). The corresponding transformation matrices served as a "reference" for the following comparisons. Three commercialized DIR algorithms: the free-form deformation from MIMVista 5.5 and the RegRefine from MIMMaestro 6.0, the multipass B-spline from VelocityAI v3.0.1, and the adaptive demons from OnQ rts 2.1.15, were applied between the initial images and the deformed CT sets. The generated adaptive contours and dose distributions were compared with the "reference" and among each other. The performance in transferring contours was comparable among all three tools with an average Dice similarity coefficient of 0.81 for all the organs. However, the dose warping accuracy appeared to rely on the evaluation end points and methodologies. Point-dose differences could show a difference of up to 23.3 Gy inside the PTVs and to overestimate up to 13.2 Gy for OARs, which was substantial for a 72 Gy prescription dose. Dose-volume histogram-based evaluation might not be sensitive enough to illustrate all the detailed variations, while isodose assessment on a slice-by-slice basis could be tedious. We further explored the possibility of using 3D gamma index analysis for warping dose variation assessment, and observed differences in dose warping using different DIR tools. Overall, our results demonstrated that evaluation based only on the performance of contour transformation could not guarantee the accuracy in dose warping, while dose-transferring validation strongly relied on the evaluation endpoint. As dose-transferring errors could cause misinterpretations when attempting to accumulate dose for adaptive radiation therapy and more DIR tools are available for clinical use, a standard and clinically meaningful quality assurance criterion should be established for DIR QA in the near future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)328-340
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of applied clinical medical physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Instrumentation
  • Radiation
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


  • Adaptive radiation therapy
  • Contour transformation
  • Deformable image registration
  • Dose warping

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