DeepEM: Deep 3D ConvNets With EM For Weakly Supervised Pulmonary Nodule Detection

Recently deep learning has been witnessing widespread adoption in various medical image applications. However, training complex deep neural nets requires large-scale datasets labeled with ground truth, which are often unavailable in many medical image domains. For instance, to train a deep neural net to detect pulmonary nodules in lung computed tomography (CT) images, current practice is to manually label nodule locations and sizes in many CT images to construct a sufficiently large training dataset, which is costly and difficult to scale. On the other hand, electronic medical records (EMR) contain plenty of partial information on the content of each medical image. In this work, we explore how to tap this vast, but currently unexplored data source to improve pulmonary nodule detection. We propose DeepEM, a novel deep 3D ConvNet framework augmented with expectation-maximization (EM), to mine weakly supervised labels in EMRs for pulmonary nodule detection. Experimental results show that DeepEM can lead to 1.5\% and 3.9\% average improvement in free-response receiver operating characteristic (FROC) scores on LUNA16 and Tianchi datasets, respectively, demonstrating the utility of incomplete information in EMRs for improving deep learning algorithms.\footnote{}

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