Accurate Weakly Supervised Deep Lesion Segmentation on CT Scans: Self-Paced 3D Mask Generation from RECIST

Volumetric lesion segmentation via medical imaging is a powerful means to precisely assess multiple time-point lesion/tumor changes. Because manual 3D segmentation is prohibitively time consuming and requires radiological experience, current practices rely on an imprecise surrogate called response evaluation criteria in solid tumors (RECIST). Despite their coarseness, RECIST marks are commonly found in current hospital picture and archiving systems (PACS), meaning they can provide a potentially powerful, yet extraordinarily challenging, source of weak supervision for full 3D segmentation. Toward this end, we introduce a convolutional neural network based weakly supervised self-paced segmentation (WSSS) method to 1) generate the initial lesion segmentation on the axial RECIST-slice; 2) learn the data distribution on RECIST-slices; 3) adapt to segment the whole volume slice by slice to finally obtain a volumetric segmentation. In addition, we explore how super-resolution images (2~5 times beyond the physical CT imaging), generated from a proposed stacked generative adversarial network, can aid the WSSS performance. We employ the DeepLesion dataset, a comprehensive CT-image lesion dataset of 32,735 PACS-bookmarked findings, which include lesions, tumors, and lymph nodes of varying sizes, categories, body regions and surrounding contexts. These are drawn from 10,594 studies of 4,459 patients. We also validate on a lymph-node dataset, where 3D ground truth masks are available for all images. For the DeepLesion dataset, we report mean Dice coefficients of 93% on RECIST-slices and 76% in 3D lesion volumes. We further validate using a subjective user study, where an experienced radiologist accepted our WSSS-generated lesion segmentation results with a high probability of 92.4%.

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