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Dynamic programming and automated segmentation of optical coherence tomography images of the neonatal subglottis: enabling efficient diagnostics to manage subglottic stenosis.


Subglottic stenosis (SGS) is a challenging disease to diagnose in neonates. Long-range optical coherence tomography (OCT) is an optical imaging modality that has been described to image the subglottis in intubated neonates. A major challenge associated with OCT imaging is the lack of an automated method for image analysis and micrometry of large volumes of data that are acquired with each airway scan (1 to 2 Gb). We developed a tissue segmentation algorithm that identifies, measures, and conducts image analysis on tissue layers within the mucosa and submucosa and compared these automated tissue measurements with manual tracings. We noted small but statistically significant differences in thickness measurements of the mucosa and submucosa layers in the larynx (p  <  0.001), subglottis (p  =  0.015), and trachea (p  =  0.012). The automated algorithm was also shown to be over 8 times faster than the manual approach. Moderate Pearson correlations were found between different tissue texture parameters and the patient's gestational age at birth, age in days, duration of intubation, and differences with age (mean age 17 days). Automated OCT data analysis is necessary in the diagnosis and monitoring of SGS, as it can provide vital information about the airway in real time and aid clinicians in making management decisions for intubated neonates.


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