Does Non-COVID19 Lung Lesion Help? Investigating Transferability in COVID-19 CT Image Segmentation

23 Jun 2020  ·  Yixin Wang, Yao Zhang, Yang Liu, Jiang Tian, Cheng Zhong, Zhongchao Shi, Yang Zhang, Zhiqiang He ·

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a highly contagious virus spreading all around the world. Deep learning has been adopted as an effective technique to aid COVID-19 detection and segmentation from computed tomography (CT) images. The major challenge lies in the inadequate public COVID-19 datasets. Recently, transfer learning has become a widely used technique that leverages the knowledge gained while solving one problem and applying it to a different but related problem. However, it remains unclear whether various non-COVID19 lung lesions could contribute to segmenting COVID-19 infection areas and how to better conduct this transfer procedure. This paper provides a way to understand the transferability of non-COVID19 lung lesions. Based on a publicly available COVID-19 CT dataset and three public non-COVID19 datasets, we evaluate four transfer learning methods using 3D U-Net as a standard encoder-decoder method. The results reveal the benefits of transferring knowledge from non-COVID19 lung lesions, and learning from multiple lung lesion datasets can extract more general features, leading to accurate and robust pre-trained models. We further show the capability of the encoder to learn feature representations of lung lesions, which improves segmentation accuracy and facilitates training convergence. In addition, our proposed Hybrid-encoder learning method incorporates transferred lung lesion features from non-COVID19 datasets effectively and achieves significant improvement. These findings promote new insights into transfer learning for COVID-19 CT image segmentation, which can also be further generalized to other medical tasks.

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