Employing Weak Annotations for Medical Image Analysis Problems

To efficiently establish training databases for machine learning methods, collaborative and crowdsourcing platforms have been investigated to collectively tackle the annotation effort. However, when this concept is ported to the medical imaging domain, reading expertise will have a direct impact on the annotation accuracy. In this study, we examine the impact of expertise and the amount of available annotations on the accuracy outcome of a liver segmentation problem in an abdominal computed tomography (CT) image database. In controlled experiments, we study this impact for different types of weak annotations. To address the decrease in accuracy associated with lower expertise, we propose a method for outlier correction making use of a weakly labelled atlas. Using this approach, we demonstrate that weak annotations subject to high error rates can achieve a similarly high accuracy as state-of-the-art multi-atlas segmentation approaches relying on a large amount of expert manual segmentations. Annotations of this nature can realistically be obtained from a non-expert crowd and can potentially enable crowdsourcing of weak annotation tasks for medical image analysis.

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