Fast refacing of MR images with a generative neural network lowers re-identification risk and preserves volumetric consistency

With the rise of open data, identifiability of individuals based on 3D renderings obtained from routine structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the head has become a growing privacy concern. To protect subject privacy, several algorithms have been developed to de-identify imaging data using blurring, defacing or refacing. Completely removing facial structures provides the best re-identification protection but can significantly impact post-processing steps, like brain morphometry. As an alternative, refacing methods that replace individual facial structures with generic templates have a lower effect on the geometry and intensity distribution of original scans, and are able to provide more consistent post-processing results by the price of higher re-identification risk and computational complexity. In the current study, we propose a novel method for anonymised face generation for defaced 3D T1-weighted scans based on a 3D conditional generative adversarial network. To evaluate the performance of the proposed de-identification tool, a comparative study was conducted between several existing defacing and refacing tools, with two different segmentation algorithms (FAST and Morphobox). The aim was to evaluate (i) impact on brain morphometry reproducibility, (ii) re-identification risk, (iii) balance between (i) and (ii), and (iv) the processing time. The proposed method takes 9 seconds for face generation and is suitable for recovering consistent post-processing results after defacing.

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