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Automatic colorimetric calibration of human wounds

Sven Van Poucke1*, Yves Vander Haeghen2, Kris Vissers3, Theo Meert4 and Philippe Jorens5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anaesthesia, Critical Care, Emergency Care, Genk, Belgium

2 Department of Dermatology, University Ghent, Ghent, Belgium

3 Department of Anesthesiology, Pain and Palliative Medicine, The Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, Netherlands

4 CNS, Pain and Neurology, Janssen Research Foundation, Beerse, Belgium

5 Critical Care Department, Antwerp University Hospital, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium

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BMC Medical Imaging 2010, 10:7  doi:10.1186/1471-2342-10-7

Published: 18 March 2010



Recently, digital photography in medicine is considered an acceptable tool in many clinical domains, e.g. wound care. Although ever higher resolutions are available, reproducibility is still poor and visual comparison of images remains difficult. This is even more the case for measurements performed on such images (colour, area, etc.). This problem is often neglected and images are freely compared and exchanged without further thought.


The first experiment checked whether camera settings or lighting conditions could negatively affect the quality of colorimetric calibration. Digital images plus a calibration chart were exposed to a variety of conditions. Precision and accuracy of colours after calibration were quantitatively assessed with a probability distribution for perceptual colour differences (dE_ab). The second experiment was designed to assess the impact of the automatic calibration procedure (i.e. chart detection) on real-world measurements. 40 Different images of real wounds were acquired and a region of interest was selected in each image. 3 Rotated versions of each image were automatically calibrated and colour differences were calculated.


1st Experiment: Colour differences between the measurements and real spectrophotometric measurements reveal median dE_ab values respectively 6.40 for the proper patches of calibrated normal images and 17.75 for uncalibrated images demonstrating an important improvement in accuracy after calibration. The reproducibility, visualized by the probability distribution of the dE_ab errors between 2 measurements of the patches of the images has a median of 3.43 dE* for all calibrated images, 23.26 dE_ab for all uncalibrated images. If we restrict ourselves to the proper patches of normal calibrated images the median is only 2.58 dE_ab! Wilcoxon sum-rank testing (p < 0.05) between uncalibrated normal images and calibrated normal images with proper squares were equal to 0 demonstrating a highly significant improvement of reproducibility. In the second experiment, the reproducibility of the chart detection during automatic calibration is presented using a probability distribution of dE_ab errors between 2 measurements of the same ROI.


The investigators proposed an automatic colour calibration algorithm that ensures reproducible colour content of digital images. Evidence was provided that images taken with commercially available digital cameras can be calibrated independently of any camera settings and illumination features.