Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Biomedical Engineering


Dr. Terry Peters


Discrete graph cuts and continuous max-flow theory have created a paradigm shift in many areas of medical image processing. As previous methods limited themselves to analytically solvable optimization problems or guaranteed only local optimizability to increasingly complex and non-convex functionals, current methods based now rely on describing an optimization problem in a series of general yet simple functionals with a global, but non-analytic, solution algorithms. This has been increasingly spurred on by the availability of these general-purpose algorithms in an open-source context. Thus, graph-cuts and max-flow have changed every aspect of medical image processing from reconstruction to enhancement to segmentation and registration.

To wax philosophical, continuous max-flow theory in particular has the potential to bring a high degree of mathematical elegance to the field, bridging the conceptual gap between the discrete and continuous domains in which we describe different imaging problems, properties and processes. In Chapter 1, we use the notion of infinitely dense and infinitely densely connected graphs to transfer between the discrete and continuous domains, which has a certain sense of mathematical pedantry to it, but the resulting variational energy equations have a sense of elegance and charm. As any application of the principle of duality, the variational equations have an enigmatic side that can only be decoded with time and patience.

The goal of this thesis is to show the contributions of max-flow theory through image enhancement and segmentation, increasing incorporation of topological considerations and increasing the role played by user knowledge and interactivity. These methods will be rigorously grounded in calculus of variations, guaranteeing fuzzy optimality and providing multiple solution approaches to addressing each individual problem.