3D Convolutional Encoder-Decoder Network for Low-Dose CT via Transfer Learning from a 2D Trained Network

Low-dose computed tomography (CT) has attracted a major attention in the medical imaging field, since CT-associated x-ray radiation carries health risks for patients. The reduction of CT radiation dose, however, compromises the signal-to-noise ratio, and may compromise the image quality and the diagnostic performance. Recently, deep-learning-based algorithms have achieved promising results in low-dose CT denoising, especially convolutional neural network (CNN) and generative adversarial network (GAN). This article introduces a Contracting Path-based Convolutional Encoder-decoder (CPCE) network in 2D and 3D configurations within the GAN framework for low-dose CT denoising. A novel feature of our approach is that an initial 3D CPCE denoising model can be directly obtained by extending a trained 2D CNN and then fine-tuned to incorporate 3D spatial information from adjacent slices. Based on the transfer learning from 2D to 3D, the 3D network converges faster and achieves a better denoising performance than that trained from scratch. By comparing the CPCE with recently published methods based on the simulated Mayo dataset and the real MGH dataset, we demonstrate that the 3D CPCE denoising model has a better performance, suppressing image noise and preserving subtle structures.

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