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Insight Toolkit

Collage of images showing examples of how the Insight Toolkit is used in surgical planning, biomedical image analysis, diagnosis, and treatment.
Project information

The Insight Toolkit (ITK) project is developing a public, open-source library of leading-edge algorithms for the segmentation (image partitioning) and registration (image alignment) of high-dimensional biomedical image data.

ITK R&D: Fundamental improvements in the ITK software library are being made, in light of the current state of ITK and technological advances such as multi-core processors in laptop systems, larger memories, ubiquitous graphics processing units (GPUs), and consumer-grade parallel computing systems for array processing.

ITK applications R&D: Researchers are incorporating ITK code into software for medical and other applications:

  • Deconvolution methods for astronomy and astrophysics
  • Digital histology
  • Image registration for neurosurgery
  • Microscopy
  • Tumor micro-environments
  • Tumor volume measurement for lung cancer treatment
  • Video processing for security applications as well as healthcare
  • Zebrafish embryology

ITK adopters:

  • The National Alliance of Medical Image Computing (NA-MIC), an NIH Roadmap National Center for Biomedical Computing (NCBC) led by Harvard University, has adopted ITK and its software engineering practices as part of its engineering infrastructure.
  • ITK is the software foundation for the Image Guided Surgery Toolkit (IGSTK), an R&D program sponsored by the NIH National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) and executed by Georgetown University’s Imaging Science and Information Systems (ISIS) Center.
  • The Image-Guided Surgery Toolkit (IGSTK) is pioneering an open application programming interface (API) for integrating robotics, image-guidance, image analysis, and surgical intervention.
  • International software packages that incorporate ITK include:
    •  Osirix, an open-source diagnostic radiological image viewing system developed through a research partnership between UCLA and the University of Geneva, Switzerland
    • The Orfeo Toolbox (OTB) from the Centre Nationale D’Etudes Spatiales, the French National Space Administration

ITK influences: ITK influences end-user applications through supplementing research platforms including:

  • Analyze – computational techniques for the display and analysis of multidimensional image data – from the Mayo Clinic
  • SCIRun, a problem solving environment for modeling, simulation, and visualization of scientific problems, from the University of Utah's Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute
  • The development of a new release of VolView, free software for medical volume image viewing and analysis

ITK project coordination: NLM and the ITK Project coordinate efforts of groups including:

  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • CoSmo Software
  • General Electric Global Research
  • Georgetown University
  • Harvard University
  • Kitware, Inc.
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Ohio State University
  • Old Dominion University
  • University of Iowa
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Utah Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute

About ITK and its software:

  • Can be run on Apple, Linux, and Windows
  • Comprises more than 845,000 lines of openly available source code
  • Subscribers to the ITK list-serve include more than 1,500 people from more than 40 countries, and representing a broad scientific community
  • Support, development, and maintenance provided through a consortium of university and commercial organizations and NLM/LHNCBC/OHPCC intramural research staff

For more information about ITK: Please visit for more information about ITK, including a technical summary, its history, current releases, training, and ITK projects.

Funding: FY 2010 and FY 2011 ITK efforts were funded through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (commonly known as the Stimulus).

Beare R, Lowekamp B, Yaniv Z. Image Segmentation, Registration and Characterization in R with SimpleITK. J Stat Softw. 2018 Aug;86. pii: 8. doi: 10.18637/jss.v086.i08. Epub 2018 Sep 4.
Yaniv Z, Lowekamp B, Johnson HJ, Beare R. SimpleITK Image-Analysis Notebooks: a Collaborative Environment for Education and Reproducible Research. J Digit Imaging. 2018 Jun;31(3):290-303. doi: 10.1007/s10278-017-0037-8.
Lowekamp BC, Chen DT, Ibáñez L, Blezek D. The Design of SimpleITK. Front Neuroinform. 2013 Dec 30;7:45. doi: 10.3389/fninf.2013.00045. eCollection 2013.
Lowekamp B, Chen D. BinShrink: A multi-resolution filter with cache efficient averaging. Insight Journal. Web. 18 November 2013
Lowekamp B, Chen D. A Streaming IO Base Class and Support for Streaming the MRC and VTK File Format. Insight Journal. Web. 2010 Jun 9.
Lowekamp B, Chen D. A Framework for Improved Regression Testing Based Upon CTest and CDash. The Insight Journal. Web. 2009 Jul-Dec.
Lowekamp B, Chen D, Santoroski J, Yaniv Z, Yoo TS. Software: SimpleITK.
Lowekamp B. IO Streaming in ITK. Kitware Source. 2009 Apr;9:5-7.
Yoo TS. The Insight Toolkit: An Open-Source Initiative in Data Segmentation and Registration. In: Johnson C, Hansen C, editors. The Visualization Handbook. Amsterdam: Elsevier; 2005. p. 733-48.
Yoo TS, Ackerman MJ. Open Source Software for Medical Image Processing and Visualization. Communications of the ACM. 2005 Feb;48(2):55-9. DOI:10.1145/1042091.1042120.