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.
The number of international benchmarking competitions is steadily increasing in various fields of machine learning (ML) research and practice. So far, however, little is known about the common practice as well as bottlenecks faced by the community in tackling the research questions posed. To shed light on the status quo of algorithm development in the specific field of biomedical imaging analysis, we designed an international survey that was issued to all participants of challenges conducted in conjunction with the IEEE ISBI 2021 and MICCAI 2021 conferences (80 competitions in total). The survey covered participants' expertise and working environments, their chosen strategies, as well as algorithm characteristics. A median of 72% challenge participants took part in the survey. According to our results, knowledge exchange was the primary incentive (70%) for participation, while the reception of prize money played only a minor role (16%). While a median of 80 working hours was spent on method development, a large portion of participants stated that they did not have enough time for method development (32%). 25% perceived the infrastructure to be a bottleneck. Overall, 94% of all solutions were deep learning-based. Of these, 84% were based on standard architectures. 43% of the respondents reported that the data samples (e.g., images) were too large to be processed at once. This was most commonly addressed by patch-based training (69%), downsampling (37%), and solving 3D analysis tasks as a series of 2D tasks. K-fold cross-validation on the training set was performed by only 37% of the participants and only 50% of the participants performed ensembling based on multiple identical models (61%) or heterogeneous models (39%). 48% of the respondents applied postprocessing steps.
Accurate delineation of the left ventricular boundaries in late gadolinium-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (LGE-MRI) is an essential step for scar tissue quantification and patient-specific assessment of myocardial infarction. Many deep-learning techniques have been proposed to perform automatic segmentations of the left ventricle (LV) in LGE-MRI showing segmentations as accurate as those obtained by expert cardiologists. Thus far, the existing models have been overwhelmingly developed and evaluated with LGE-MRI datasets from single clinical centers. However, in practice, LGE-MRI images vary significantly between clinical centers within and across countries, in particular due to differences in the MRI scanners, imaging conditions, contrast injection protocols and local clinical practise. This work investigates for the first time multi-center and multi-vendor LV segmentation in LGE-MRI, by proposing, implementing and evaluating in detail several strategies to enhance model generalizability across clinical cites. These include data augmentation to artificially augment the image variability in the training sample, image harmonization to align the distributions of LGE-MRI images across centers, and transfer learning to adjust existing single-center models to unseen images from new clinical sites. The results obtained based on a new multi-center LGE-MRI dataset acquired in four clinical centers in Spain, France and China, show that the combination of data augmentation and transfer learning can lead to single-center models that generalize well to new clinical centers not included in the original training. The proposed framework shows the potential for developing clinical tools for automated LV segmentation in LGE-MRI that can be deployed in multiple clinical centers across distinct geographical locations.
Accurate segmentation of the cardiac boundaries in late gadolinium enhancement magnetic resonance images (LGE-MRI) is a fundamental step for accurate quantification of scar tissue. However, while there are many solutions for automatic cardiac segmentation of cine images, the presence of scar tissue can make the correct delineation of the myocardium in LGE-MRI challenging even for human experts. As part of the Multi-Sequence Cardiac MR Segmentation Challenge, we propose a solution for LGE-MRI segmentation based on two components. First, a generative adversarial network is trained for the task of modality-to-modality translation between cine and LGE-MRI sequences to obtain extra synthetic images for both modalities. Second, a deep learning model is trained for segmentation with different combinations of original, augmented and synthetic sequences. Our results based on three magnetic resonance sequences (LGE, bSSFP and T2) from 45 different patients show that the multi-sequence model training integrating synthetic images and data augmentation improves in the segmentation over conventional training with real datasets. In conclusion, the accuracy of the segmentation of LGE-MRI images can be improved by using complementary information provided by non-contrast MRI sequences.
* 10 pages; Accepted to MS-CMRSeg Challenge (STACOM 2019)