Deep learning of the sectional appearances of 3D CT images for anatomical structure segmentation based on an FCN voting method

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Abstract

Purpose:

We propose a single network trained by pixel-to-label deep learning to address the general issue of automatic multiple organ segmentation in three-dimensional (3D) computed tomography (CT) images. Our method can be described as a voxel-wise multiple-class classification scheme for automatically assigning labels to each pixel/voxel in a 2D/3D CT image.

Methods:

We simplify the segmentation algorithms of anatomical structures (including multiple organs) in a CT image (generally in 3D) to a majority voting scheme over the semantic segmentation of multiple 2D slices drawn from different viewpoints with redundancy. The proposed method inherits the spirit of fully convolutional networks (FCNs) that consist of “convolution” and “deconvolution” layers for 2D semantic image segmentation, and expands the core structure with 3D-2D-3D transformations to adapt to 3D CT image segmentation. All parameters in the proposed network are trained pixel-to-label from a small number of CT cases with human annotations as the ground truth. The proposed network naturally fulfills the requirements of multiple organ segmentations in CT cases of different sizes that cover arbitrary scan regions without any adjustment.

Results:

The proposed network was trained and validated using the simultaneous segmentation of 19 anatomical structures in the human torso, including 17 major organs and two special regions (lumen and content inside of stomach). Some of these structures have never been reported in previous research on CT segmentation. A database consisting of 240 (95% for training and 5% for testing) 3D CT scans, together with their manually annotated ground-truth segmentations, was used in our experiments. The results show that the 19 structures of interest were segmented with acceptable accuracy (88.1% and 87.9% voxels in the training and testing datasets, respectively, were labeled correctly) against the ground truth.

Conclusions:

We propose a single network based on pixel-to-label deep learning to address the challenging issue of anatomical structure segmentation in 3D CT cases. The novelty of this work is the policy of deep learning of the different 2D sectional appearances of 3D anatomical structures for CT cases and the majority voting of the 3D segmentation results from multiple crossed 2D sections to achieve availability and reliability with better efficiency, generality, and flexibility than conventional segmentation methods, which must be guided by human expertise.

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