Fibrosis-Net: A Tailored Deep Convolutional Neural Network Design for Prediction of Pulmonary Fibrosis Progression from Chest CT Images

Pulmonary fibrosis is a devastating chronic lung disease that causes irreparable lung tissue scarring and damage, resulting in progressive loss in lung capacity and has no known cure. A critical step in the treatment and management of pulmonary fibrosis is the assessment of lung function decline, with computed tomography (CT) imaging being a particularly effective method for determining the extent of lung damage caused by pulmonary fibrosis. Motivated by this, we introduce Fibrosis-Net, a deep convolutional neural network design tailored for the prediction of pulmonary fibrosis progression from chest CT images. More specifically, machine-driven design exploration was leveraged to determine a strong architectural design for CT lung analysis, upon which we build a customized network design tailored for predicting forced vital capacity (FVC) based on a patient's CT scan, initial spirometry measurement, and clinical metadata. Finally, we leverage an explainability-driven performance validation strategy to study the decision-making behaviour of Fibrosis-Net as to verify that predictions are based on relevant visual indicators in CT images. Experiments using a patient cohort from the OSIC Pulmonary Fibrosis Progression Challenge showed that the proposed Fibrosis-Net is able to achieve a significantly higher modified Laplace Log Likelihood score than the winning solutions on the challenge. Furthermore, explainability-driven performance validation demonstrated that the proposed Fibrosis-Net exhibits correct decision-making behaviour by leveraging clinically-relevant visual indicators in CT images when making predictions on pulmonary fibrosis progress. While Fibrosis-Net is not yet a production-ready clinical assessment solution, we hope that its release in open source manner will encourage researchers, clinicians, and citizen data scientists alike to leverage and build upon it.

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