Domain gaps are among the most relevant roadblocks in the clinical translation of machine learning (ML)-based solutions for medical image analysis. While current research focuses on new training paradigms and network architectures, little attention is given to the specific effect of prevalence shifts on an algorithm deployed in practice. Such discrepancies between class frequencies in the data used for a method's development/validation and that in its deployment environment(s) are of great importance, for example in the context of artificial intelligence (AI) democratization, as disease prevalences may vary widely across time and location. Our contribution is twofold. First, we empirically demonstrate the potentially severe consequences of missing prevalence handling by analyzing (i) the extent of miscalibration, (ii) the deviation of the decision threshold from the optimum, and (iii) the ability of validation metrics to reflect neural network performance on the deployment population as a function of the discrepancy between development and deployment prevalence. Second, we propose a workflow for prevalence-aware image classification that uses estimated deployment prevalences to adjust a trained classifier to a new environment, without requiring additional annotated deployment data. Comprehensive experiments based on a diverse set of 30 medical classification tasks showcase the benefit of the proposed workflow in generating better classifier decisions and more reliable performance estimates compared to current practice.
Validation metrics are key for the reliable tracking of scientific progress and for bridging the current chasm between artificial intelligence (AI) research and its translation into practice. However, increasing evidence shows that particularly in image analysis, metrics are often chosen inadequately in relation to the underlying research problem. This could be attributed to a lack of accessibility of metric-related knowledge: While taking into account the individual strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of validation metrics is a critical prerequisite to making educated choices, the relevant knowledge is currently scattered and poorly accessible to individual researchers. Based on a multi-stage Delphi process conducted by a multidisciplinary expert consortium as well as extensive community feedback, the present work provides the first reliable and comprehensive common point of access to information on pitfalls related to validation metrics in image analysis. Focusing on biomedical image analysis but with the potential of transfer to other fields, the addressed pitfalls generalize across application domains and are categorized according to a newly created, domain-agnostic taxonomy. To facilitate comprehension, illustrations and specific examples accompany each pitfall. As a structured body of information accessible to researchers of all levels of expertise, this work enhances global comprehension of a key topic in image analysis validation.
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.
The field of automatic biomedical image analysis crucially depends on robust and meaningful performance metrics for algorithm validation. Current metric usage, however, is often ill-informed and does not reflect the underlying domain interest. Here, we present a comprehensive framework that guides researchers towards choosing performance metrics in a problem-aware manner. Specifically, we focus on biomedical image analysis problems that can be interpreted as a classification task at image, object or pixel level. The framework first compiles domain interest-, target structure-, data set- and algorithm output-related properties of a given problem into a problem fingerprint, while also mapping it to the appropriate problem category, namely image-level classification, semantic segmentation, instance segmentation, or object detection. It then guides users through the process of selecting and applying a set of appropriate validation metrics while making them aware of potential pitfalls related to individual choices. In this paper, we describe the current status of the Metrics Reloaded recommendation framework, with the goal of obtaining constructive feedback from the image analysis community. The current version has been developed within an international consortium of more than 60 image analysis experts and will be made openly available as a user-friendly toolkit after community-driven optimization.