Automated Segmentation and Volume Measurement of Intracranial Carotid Artery Calcification on Non-Contrast CT

Purpose: To evaluate a fully-automated deep-learning-based method for assessment of intracranial carotid artery calcification (ICAC). Methods: Two observers manually delineated ICAC in non-contrast CT scans of 2,319 participants (mean age 69 (SD 7) years; 1154 women) of the Rotterdam Study, prospectively collected between 2003 and 2006. These data were used to retrospectively develop and validate a deep-learning-based method for automated ICAC delineation and volume measurement. To evaluate the method, we compared manual and automatic assessment (computed using ten-fold cross-validation) with respect to 1) the agreement with an independent observer's assessment (available in a random subset of 47 scans); 2) the accuracy in delineating ICAC as judged via blinded visual comparison by an expert; 3) the association with first stroke incidence from the scan date until 2012. All method performance metrics were computed using 10-fold cross-validation. Results: The automated delineation of ICAC reached sensitivity of 83.8% and positive predictive value (PPV) of 88%. The intraclass correlation between automatic and manual ICAC volume measures was 0.98 (95% CI: 0.97, 0.98; computed in the entire dataset). Measured between the assessments of independent observers, sensitivity was 73.9%, PPV was 89.5%, and intraclass correlation was 0.91 (95% CI: 0.84, 0.95; computed in the 47-scan subset). In the blinded visual comparisons, automatic delineations were more accurate than manual ones (p-value = 0.01). The association of ICAC volume with incident stroke was similarly strong for both automated (hazard ratio, 1.38 (95% CI: 1.12, 1.75) and manually measured volumes (hazard ratio, 1.48 (95% CI: 1.20, 1.87)). Conclusions: The developed model was capable of automated segmentation and volume quantification of ICAC with accuracy comparable to human experts.

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