Astaraki M, Smedby Ö, Wang C
Med Image Anal 80 (-) 102491 [2022-05-25; online 2022-05-25]
Segmentation of lung pathology in Computed Tomography (CT) images is of great importance for lung disease screening. However, the presence of different types of lung pathologies with a wide range of heterogeneities in size, shape, location, and texture, on one side, and their visual similarity with respect to surrounding tissues, on the other side, make it challenging to perform reliable automatic lesion segmentation. To leverage segmentation performance, we propose a deep learning framework comprising a Normal Appearance Autoencoder (NAA) model to learn the distribution of healthy lung regions and reconstruct pathology-free images from the corresponding pathological inputs by replacing the pathological regions with the characteristics of healthy tissues. Detected regions that represent prior information regarding the shape and location of pathologies are then integrated into a segmentation network to guide the attention of the model into more meaningful delineations. The proposed pipeline was tested on three types of lung pathologies, including pulmonary nodules, Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC), and Covid-19 lesion on five comprehensive datasets. The results show the superiority of the proposed prior model, which outperformed the baseline segmentation models in all the cases with significant margins. On average, adding the prior model improved the Dice coefficient for the segmentation of lung nodules by 0.038, NSCLCs by 0.101, and Covid-19 lesions by 0.041. We conclude that the proposed NAA model produces reliable prior knowledge regarding the lung pathologies, and integrating such knowledge into a prior segmentation network leads to more accurate delineations.