MRI Pulse Sequence Integration for Deep-Learning Based Brain Metastasis Segmentation

Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging is an essential diagnostic tool in clinical medicine. Recently, a variety of deep learning methods have been applied to segmentation tasks in medical images, with promising results for computer-aided diagnosis. For MR images, effectively integrating different pulse sequences is important to optimize performance. However, the best way to integrate different pulse sequences remains unclear. In this study, we evaluate multiple architectural features and characterize their effects in the task of metastasis segmentation. Specifically, we consider (1) different pulse sequence integration schemas, (2) different modes of weight sharing for parallel network branches, and (3) a new approach for enabling robustness to missing pulse sequences. We find that levels of integration and modes of weight sharing that favor low variance work best in our regime of small data (n = 100). By adding an input-level dropout layer, we could preserve the overall performance of these networks while allowing for inference on inputs with missing pulse sequence. We illustrate not only the generalizability of the network but also the utility of this robustness when applying the trained model to data from a different center, which does not use the same pulse sequences. Finally, we apply network visualization methods to better understand which input features are most important for network performance. Together, these results provide a framework for building networks with enhanced robustness to missing data while maintaining comparable performance in medical imaging applications.

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