An anatomically-informed 3D CNN for brain aneurysm classification with weak labels

A commonly adopted approach to carry out detection tasks in medical imaging is to rely on an initial segmentation. However, this approach strongly depends on voxel-wise annotations which are repetitive and time-consuming to draw for medical experts. An interesting alternative to voxel-wise masks are so-called "weak" labels: these can either be coarse or oversized annotations that are less precise, but noticeably faster to create. In this work, we address the task of brain aneurysm detection as a patch-wise binary classification with weak labels, in contrast to related studies that rather use supervised segmentation methods and voxel-wise delineations. Our approach comes with the non-trivial challenge of the data set creation: as for most focal diseases, anomalous patches (with aneurysm) are outnumbered by those showing no anomaly, and the two classes usually have different spatial distributions. To tackle this frequent scenario of inherently imbalanced, spatially skewed data sets, we propose a novel, anatomically-driven approach by using a multi-scale and multi-input 3D Convolutional Neural Network (CNN). We apply our model to 214 subjects (83 patients, 131 controls) who underwent Time-Of-Flight Magnetic Resonance Angiography (TOF-MRA) and presented a total of 111 unruptured cerebral aneurysms. We compare two strategies for negative patch sampling that have an increasing level of difficulty for the network and we show how this choice can strongly affect the results. To assess whether the added spatial information helps improving performances, we compare our anatomically-informed CNN with a baseline, spatially-agnostic CNN. When considering the more realistic and challenging scenario including vessel-like negative patches, the former model attains the highest classification results (accuracy$\simeq$95\%, AUROC$\simeq$0.95, AUPR$\simeq$0.71), thus outperforming the baseline.

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