Lung Nodule Segmentation and Uncertain Region Prediction with an Uncertainty-Aware Attention Mechanism

15 Mar 2023  ·  Han Yang, Qiuli Wang, Yue Zhang, Zhulin An, Chen Liu, Xiaohong Zhang, S. Kevin Zhou ·

Radiologists possess diverse training and clinical experiences, leading to variations in the segmentation annotations of lung nodules and resulting in segmentation uncertainty.Conventional methods typically select a single annotation as the learning target or attempt to learn a latent space comprising multiple annotations. However, these approaches fail to leverage the valuable information inherent in the consensus and disagreements among the multiple annotations. In this paper, we propose an Uncertainty-Aware Attention Mechanism (UAAM) that utilizes consensus and disagreements among multiple annotations to facilitate better segmentation. To this end, we introduce the Multi-Confidence Mask (MCM), which combines a Low-Confidence (LC) Mask and a High-Confidence (HC) Mask.The LC mask indicates regions with low segmentation confidence, where radiologists may have different segmentation choices. Following UAAM, we further design an Uncertainty-Guide Multi-Confidence Segmentation Network (UGMCS-Net), which contains three modules: a Feature Extracting Module that captures a general feature of a lung nodule, an Uncertainty-Aware Module that produces three features for the the annotations' union, intersection, and annotation set, and an Intersection-Union Constraining Module that uses distances between the three features to balance the predictions of final segmentation and MCM. To comprehensively demonstrate the performance of our method, we propose a Complex Nodule Validation on LIDC-IDRI, which tests UGMCS-Net's segmentation performance on lung nodules that are difficult to segment using common methods. Experimental results demonstrate that our method can significantly improve the segmentation performance on nodules that are difficult to segment using conventional methods.

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