International benchmarking competitions have become fundamental for the comparative performance assessment of image analysis methods. However, little attention has been given to investigating what can be learnt from these competitions. Do they really generate scientific progress? What are common and successful participation strategies? What makes a solution superior to a competing method? To address this gap in the literature, we performed a multi-center study with all 80 competitions that were conducted in the scope of IEEE ISBI 2021 and MICCAI 2021. Statistical analyses performed based on comprehensive descriptions of the submitted algorithms linked to their rank as well as the underlying participation strategies revealed common characteristics of winning solutions. These typically include the use of multi-task learning (63%) and/or multi-stage pipelines (61%), and a focus on augmentation (100%), image preprocessing (97%), data curation (79%), and postprocessing (66%). The "typical" lead of a winning team is a computer scientist with a doctoral degree, five years of experience in biomedical image analysis, and four years of experience in deep learning. Two core general development strategies stood out for highly-ranked teams: the reflection of the metrics in the method design and the focus on analyzing and handling failure cases. According to the organizers, 43% of the winning algorithms exceeded the state of the art but only 11% completely solved the respective domain problem. The insights of our study could help researchers (1) improve algorithm development strategies when approaching new problems, and (2) focus on open research questions revealed by this work.
Surgical scene understanding is a key prerequisite for contextaware decision support in the operating room. While deep learning-based approaches have already reached or even surpassed human performance in various fields, the task of surgical action recognition remains a major challenge. With this contribution, we are the first to investigate the concept of self-distillation as a means of addressing class imbalance and potential label ambiguity in surgical video analysis. Our proposed method is a heterogeneous ensemble of three models that use Swin Transfomers as backbone and the concepts of self-distillation and multi-task learning as core design choices. According to ablation studies performed with the CholecT45 challenge data via cross-validation, the biggest performance boost is achieved by the usage of soft labels obtained by self-distillation. External validation of our method on an independent test set was achieved by providing a Docker container of our inference model to the challenge organizers. According to their analysis, our method outperforms all other solutions submitted to the latest challenge in the field. Our approach thus shows the potential of self-distillation for becoming an important tool in medical image analysis applications.
Formalizing surgical activities as triplets of the used instruments, actions performed, and target anatomies is becoming a gold standard approach for surgical activity modeling. The benefit is that this formalization helps to obtain a more detailed understanding of tool-tissue interaction which can be used to develop better Artificial Intelligence assistance for image-guided surgery. Earlier efforts and the CholecTriplet challenge introduced in 2021 have put together techniques aimed at recognizing these triplets from surgical footage. Estimating also the spatial locations of the triplets would offer a more precise intraoperative context-aware decision support for computer-assisted intervention. This paper presents the CholecTriplet2022 challenge, which extends surgical action triplet modeling from recognition to detection. It includes weakly-supervised bounding box localization of every visible surgical instrument (or tool), as the key actors, and the modeling of each tool-activity in the form of <instrument, verb, target> triplet. The paper describes a baseline method and 10 new deep learning algorithms presented at the challenge to solve the task. It also provides thorough methodological comparisons of the methods, an in-depth analysis of the obtained results, their significance, and useful insights for future research directions and applications in surgery.
Validation metrics are a key prerequisite for the reliable tracking of scientific progress and for deciding on the potential clinical translation of methods. While recent initiatives aim to develop comprehensive theoretical frameworks for understanding metric-related pitfalls in image analysis problems, there is a lack of experimental evidence on the concrete effects of common and rare pitfalls on specific applications. We address this gap in the literature in the context of colon cancer screening. Our contribution is twofold. Firstly, we present the winning solution of the Endoscopy computer vision challenge (EndoCV) on colon cancer detection, conducted in conjunction with the IEEE International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging (ISBI) 2022. Secondly, we demonstrate the sensitivity of commonly used metrics to a range of hyperparameters as well as the consequences of poor metric choices. Based on comprehensive validation studies performed with patient data from six clinical centers, we found all commonly applied object detection metrics to be subject to high inter-center variability. Furthermore, our results clearly demonstrate that the adaptation of standard hyperparameters used in the computer vision community does not generally lead to the clinically most plausible results. Finally, we present localization criteria that correspond well to clinical relevance. Our work could be a first step towards reconsidering common validation strategies in automatic colon cancer screening applications.