AirwayNet: A Voxel-Connectivity Aware Approach for Accurate Airway Segmentation Using Convolutional Neural Networks

Airway segmentation on CT scans is critical for pulmonary disease diagnosis and endobronchial navigation. Manual extraction of airway requires strenuous efforts due to the complicated structure and various appearance of airway. For automatic airway extraction, convolutional neural networks (CNNs) based methods have recently become the state-of-the-art approach. However, there still remains a challenge for CNNs to perceive the tree-like pattern and comprehend the connectivity of airway. To address this, we propose a voxel-connectivity aware approach named AirwayNet for accurate airway segmentation. By connectivity modeling, conventional binary segmentation task is transformed into 26 tasks of connectivity prediction. Thus, our AirwayNet learns both airway structure and relationship between neighboring voxels. To take advantage of context knowledge, lung distance map and voxel coordinates are fed into AirwayNet as additional semantic information. Compared to existing approaches, AirwayNet achieved superior performance, demonstrating the effectiveness of the network's awareness of voxel connectivity.

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