Automatic measurement of pennation angle and fascicle length of gastrocnemius muscles using real-time ultrasound imaging

Guang Quan Zhou, Phoebe Chan, Yongping Zheng

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Muscle imaging is a promising field of research to understand the biological and bioelectrical characteristics of muscles through the observation of muscle architectural change. Sonomyography (SMG) is a technique which can quantify the real-time architectural change of muscles under different contractions and motions with ultrasound imaging. The pennation angle and fascicle length are two crucial SMG parameters to understand the contraction mechanics at muscle level, but they have to be manually detected on ultrasound images frame by frame. In this study, we proposed an automatic method to quantitatively identify pennation angle and fascicle length of gastrocnemius (GM) muscle based on multi-resolution analysis and line feature extraction, which could overcome the limitations of tedious and time-consuming manual measurement. The method started with convolving Gabor wavelet specially designed for enhancing the line-like structure detection in GM ultrasound image. The resulting image was then used to detect the fascicles and aponeuroses for calculating the pennation angle and fascicle length with the consideration of their distribution in ultrasound image. The performance of this method was tested on computer simulated images and experimental images in vivo obtained from normal subjects. Tests on synthetic images showed that the method could identify the fascicle orientation with an average error less than 0.1°. The result of in vivo experiment showed a good agreement between the results obtained by the automatic and the manual measurements (r = 0.94 ± 0.03; p < 0.001, and r = 0.95 ± 0.02, p < 0.001). Furthermore, a significant correlation between the ankle angle and pennation angle (r = 0.89 ± 0.05; p < 0.001) and fascicle length (r = -0.90 ± 0.04; p < 0.001) was found for the ankle plantar flexion. This study demonstrated that the proposed method was able to automatically measure the pennation angle and fascicle length of GM ultrasound images, which made it feasible to investigate muscle-level mechanics more comprehensively in vivo.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-83
Number of pages12
Issue numberC
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Fascicle length
  • Gabor wavelet
  • Pennation angle
  • Sonomyography
  • Ultrasound imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics

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