Objective: Reconstructing freehand ultrasound in 3D without any external tracker has been a long-standing challenge in ultrasound-assisted procedures. We aim to define new ways of parameterising long-term dependencies, and evaluate the performance. Methods: First, long-term dependency is encoded by transformation positions within a frame sequence. This is achieved by combining a sequence model with a multi-transformation prediction. Second, two dependency factors are proposed, anatomical image content and scanning protocol, for contributing towards accurate reconstruction. Each factor is quantified experimentally by reducing respective training variances. Results: 1) The added long-term dependency up to 400 frames at 20 frames per second (fps) indeed improved reconstruction, with an up to 82.4% lowered accumulated error, compared with the baseline performance. The improvement was found to be dependent on sequence length, transformation interval and scanning protocol and, unexpectedly, not on the use of recurrent networks with long-short term modules; 2) Decreasing either anatomical or protocol variance in training led to poorer reconstruction accuracy. Interestingly, greater performance was gained from representative protocol patterns, than from representative anatomical features. Conclusion: The proposed algorithm uses hyperparameter tuning to effectively utilise long-term dependency. The proposed dependency factors are of practical significance in collecting diverse training data, regulating scanning protocols and developing efficient networks. Significance: The proposed new methodology with publicly available volunteer data and code for parametersing the long-term dependency, experimentally shown to be valid sources of performance improvement, which could potentially lead to better model development and practical optimisation of the reconstruction application.
Denoising diffusion models have found applications in image segmentation by generating segmented masks conditioned on images. Existing studies predominantly focus on adjusting model architecture or improving inference such as test-time sampling strategies. In this work, we focus on training strategy improvements and propose a novel recycling method. During each training step, a segmentation mask is first predicted given an image and a random noise. This predicted mask, replacing the conventional ground truth mask, is used for denoising task during training. This approach can be interpreted as aligning the training strategy with inference by eliminating the dependence on ground truth masks for generating noisy samples. Our proposed method significantly outperforms standard diffusion training, self-conditioning, and existing recycling strategies across multiple medical imaging data sets: muscle ultrasound, abdominal CT, prostate MR, and brain MR. This holds true for two widely adopted sampling strategies: denoising diffusion probabilistic model and denoising diffusion implicit model. Importantly, existing diffusion models often display a declining or unstable performance during inference, whereas our novel recycling consistently enhances or maintains performance. Furthermore, we show for the first time that, under a fair comparison with the same network architectures and computing budget, the proposed recycling-based diffusion models achieved on-par performance with non-diffusion-based supervised training. This paper summarises these quantitative results and discusses their values, with a fully reproducible JAX-based implementation, released at https://github.com/mathpluscode/ImgX-DiffSeg.
We propose Boundary-RL, a novel weakly supervised segmentation method that utilises only patch-level labels for training. We envision the segmentation as a boundary detection problem, rather than a pixel-level classification as in previous works. This outlook on segmentation may allow for boundary delineation under challenging scenarios such as where noise artefacts may be present within the region-of-interest (ROI) boundaries, where traditional pixel-level classification-based weakly supervised methods may not be able to effectively segment the ROI. Particularly of interest, ultrasound images, where intensity values represent acoustic impedance differences between boundaries, may also benefit from the boundary delineation approach. Our method uses reinforcement learning to train a controller function to localise boundaries of ROIs using a reward derived from a pre-trained boundary-presence classifier. The classifier indicates when an object boundary is encountered within a patch, as the controller modifies the patch location in a sequential Markov decision process. The classifier itself is trained using only binary patch-level labels of object presence, which are the only labels used during training of the entire boundary delineation framework, and serves as a weak signal to inform the boundary delineation. The use of a controller function ensures that a sliding window over the entire image is not necessary. It also prevents possible false-positive or -negative cases by minimising number of patches passed to the boundary-presence classifier. We evaluate our proposed approach for a clinically relevant task of prostate gland segmentation on trans-rectal ultrasound images. We show improved performance compared to other tested weakly supervised methods, using the same labels e.g., multiple instance learning.
Three-dimensional (3D) freehand ultrasound (US) reconstruction without using any additional external tracking device has seen recent advances with deep neural networks (DNNs). In this paper, we first investigated two identified contributing factors of the learned inter-frame correlation that enable the DNN-based reconstruction: anatomy and protocol. We propose to incorporate the ability to represent these two factors - readily available during training - as the privileged information to improve existing DNN-based methods. This is implemented in a new multi-task method, where the anatomical and protocol discrimination are used as auxiliary tasks. We further develop a differentiable network architecture to optimise the branching location of these auxiliary tasks, which controls the ratio between shared and task-specific network parameters, for maximising the benefits from the two auxiliary tasks. Experimental results, on a dataset with 38 forearms of 19 volunteers acquired with 6 different scanning protocols, show that 1) both anatomical and protocol variances are enabling factors for DNN-based US reconstruction; 2) learning how to discriminate different subjects (anatomical variance) and predefined types of scanning paths (protocol variance) both significantly improve frame prediction accuracy, volume reconstruction overlap, accumulated tracking error and final drift, using the proposed algorithm.
The morphology and distribution of airway tree abnormalities enables diagnosis and disease characterisation across a variety of chronic respiratory conditions. In this regard, airway segmentation plays a critical role in the production of the outline of the entire airway tree to enable estimation of disease extent and severity. In this study, we propose a data-centric deep learning technique to segment the airway tree. The proposed technique utilises interpolation and image split to improve data usefulness and quality. Then, an ensemble learning strategy is implemented to aggregate the segmented airway trees at different scales. In terms of segmentation performance (dice similarity coefficient), our method outperforms the baseline model by 2.5% on average when a combined loss is used. Further, our proposed technique has a low GPU usage and high flexibility enabling it to be deployed on any 2D deep learning model.
One of the distinct characteristics in radiologists' reading of multiparametric prostate MR scans, using reporting systems such as PI-RADS v2.1, is to score individual types of MR modalities, T2-weighted, diffusion-weighted, and dynamic contrast-enhanced, and then combine these image-modality-specific scores using standardised decision rules to predict the likelihood of clinically significant cancer. This work aims to demonstrate that it is feasible for low-dimensional parametric models to model such decision rules in the proposed Combiner networks, without compromising the accuracy of predicting radiologic labels: First, it is shown that either a linear mixture model or a nonlinear stacking model is sufficient to model PI-RADS decision rules for localising prostate cancer. Second, parameters of these (generalised) linear models are proposed as hyperparameters, to weigh multiple networks that independently represent individual image modalities in the Combiner network training, as opposed to end-to-end modality ensemble. A HyperCombiner network is developed to train a single image segmentation network that can be conditioned on these hyperparameters during inference, for much improved efficiency. Experimental results based on data from 850 patients, for the application of automating radiologist labelling multi-parametric MR, compare the proposed combiner networks with other commonly-adopted end-to-end networks. Using the added advantages of obtaining and interpreting the modality combining rules, in terms of the linear weights or odds-ratios on individual image modalities, three clinical applications are presented for prostate cancer segmentation, including modality availability assessment, importance quantification and rule discovery.
We study pseudo labelling and its generalisation for semi-supervised segmentation of medical images. Pseudo labelling has achieved great empirical successes in semi-supervised learning, by utilising raw inferences on unlabelled data as pseudo labels for self-training. In our paper, we build a connection between pseudo labelling and the Expectation Maximization algorithm which partially explains its empirical successes. We thereby realise that the original pseudo labelling is an empirical estimation of its underlying full formulation. Following this insight, we demonstrate the full generalisation of pseudo labels under Bayes' principle, called Bayesian Pseudo Labels. We then provide a variational approach to learn to approximate Bayesian Pseudo Labels, by learning a threshold to select good quality pseudo labels. In the rest of the paper, we demonstrate the applications of Pseudo Labelling and its generalisation Bayesian Psuedo Labelling in semi-supervised segmentation of medical images on: 1) 3D binary segmentation of lung vessels from CT volumes; 2) 2D multi class segmentation of brain tumours from MRI volumes; 3) 3D binary segmentation of brain tumours from MRI volumes. We also show that pseudo labels can enhance the robustness of the learnt representations.
Graph neural networks (GNNs) have been proposed for medical image segmentation, by predicting anatomical structures represented by graphs of vertices and edges. One such type of graph is predefined with fixed size and connectivity to represent a reference of anatomical regions of interest, thus known as templates. This work explores the potentials in these GNNs with common topology for establishing spatial correspondence, implicitly maintained during segmenting two or more images. With an example application of registering local vertebral sub-regions found in CT images, our experimental results showed that the GNN-based segmentation is capable of accurate and reliable localization of the same interventionally interesting structures between images, not limited to the segmentation classes. The reported average target registration errors of 2.2$\pm$1.3 mm and 2.7$\pm$1.4 mm, for aligning holdout test images with a reference and for aligning two test images, respectively, were by a considerable margin lower than those from the tested non-learning and learning-based registration algorithms. Further ablation studies assess the contributions towards the registration performance, from individual components in the originally segmentation-purposed network and its training algorithm. The results highlight that the proposed segmentation-in-lieu-of-registration approach shares methodological similarities with existing registration methods, such as the use of displacement smoothness constraint and point distance minimization albeit on non-grid graphs, which interestingly yielded benefits for both segmentation and registration. We, therefore, conclude that the template-based GNN segmentation can effectively establish spatial correspondence in our application, without any other dedicated registration algorithms.
Recently, denoising diffusion probabilistic models (DDPM) have been applied to image segmentation by generating segmentation masks conditioned on images, while the applications were mainly limited to 2D networks without exploiting potential benefits from the 3D formulation. In this work, for the first time, DDPMs are used for 3D multiclass image segmentation. We make three key contributions that all focus on aligning the training strategy with the evaluation methodology, and improving efficiency. Firstly, the model predicts segmentation masks instead of sampled noise and is optimised directly via Dice loss. Secondly, the predicted mask in the previous time step is recycled to generate noise-corrupted masks to reduce information leakage. Finally, the diffusion process during training was reduced to five steps, the same as the evaluation. Through studies on two large multiclass data sets (prostate MR and abdominal CT), we demonstrated significantly improved performance compared to existing DDPMs, and reached competitive performance with non-diffusion segmentation models, based on U-net, within the same compute budget. The JAX-based diffusion framework has been released on https://github.com/mathpluscode/ImgX-DiffSeg.