Interactive segmentation is a crucial research area in medical image analysis aiming to boost the efficiency of costly annotations by incorporating human feedback. This feedback takes the form of clicks, scribbles, or masks and allows for iterative refinement of the model output so as to efficiently guide the system towards the desired behavior. In recent years, deep learning-based approaches have propelled results to a new level causing a rapid growth in the field with 121 methods proposed in the medical imaging domain alone. In this review, we provide a structured overview of this emerging field featuring a comprehensive taxonomy, a systematic review of existing methods, and an in-depth analysis of current practices. Based on these contributions, we discuss the challenges and opportunities in the field. For instance, we find that there is a severe lack of comparison across methods which needs to be tackled by standardized baselines and benchmarks.
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.
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.
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.
Explainable AI (XAI) is a necessity in safety-critical systems such as in clinical diagnostics due to a high risk for fatal decisions. Currently, however, XAI resembles a loose collection of methods rather than a well-defined process. In this work, we elaborate on conceptual similarities between the largest subgroup of XAI, interpretable machine learning (IML), and classical statistics. Based on these similarities, we present a formalization of IML along the lines of a statistical process. Adopting this statistical view allows us to interpret machine learning models and IML methods as sophisticated statistical tools. Based on this interpretation, we infer three key questions, which we identify as crucial for the success and adoption of IML in safety-critical settings. By formulating these questions, we further aim to spark a discussion about what distinguishes IML from classical statistics and what our perspective implies for the future of the field.
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.
The ability to estimate how a tumor might evolve in the future could have tremendous clinical benefits, from improved treatment decisions to better dose distribution in radiation therapy. Recent work has approached the glioma growth modeling problem via deep learning and variational inference, thus learning growth dynamics entirely from a real patient data distribution. So far, this approach was constrained to predefined image acquisition intervals and sequences of fixed length, which limits its applicability in more realistic scenarios. We overcome these limitations by extending Neural Processes, a class of conditional generative models for stochastic time series, with a hierarchical multi-scale representation encoding including a spatio-temporal attention mechanism. The result is a learned growth model that can be conditioned on an arbitrary number of observations, and that can produce a distribution of temporally consistent growth trajectories on a continuous time axis. On a dataset of 379 patients, the approach successfully captures both global and finer-grained variations in the images, exhibiting superior performance compared to other learned growth models.
Neural Processes (NPs) are a family of conditional generative models that are able to model a distribution over functions, in a way that allows them to perform predictions at test time conditioned on a number of context points. A recent addition to this family, Convolutional Conditional Neural Processes (ConvCNP), have shown remarkable improvement in performance over prior art, but we find that they sometimes struggle to generalize when applied to time series data. In particular, they are not robust to distribution shifts and fail to extrapolate observed patterns into the future. By incorporating a Gaussian Process into the model, we are able to remedy this and at the same time improve performance within distribution. As an added benefit, the Gaussian Process reintroduces the possibility to sample from the model, a key feature of other members in the NP family.