Recent Advances in the Applications of Convolutional Neural Networks to Medical Image Contour Detection

The fast growing deep learning technologies have become the main solution of many machine learning problems for medical image analysis. Deep convolution neural networks (CNNs), as one of the most important branch of the deep learning family, have been widely investigated for various computer-aided diagnosis tasks including long-term problems and continuously emerging new problems. Image contour detection is a fundamental but challenging task that has been studied for more than four decades. Recently, we have witnessed the significantly improved performance of contour detection thanks to the development of CNNs. Beyond purusing performance in existing natural image benchmarks, contour detection plays a particularly important role in medical image analysis. Segmenting various objects from radiology images or pathology images requires accurate detection of contours. However, some problems, such as discontinuity and shape constraints, are insufficiently studied in CNNs. It is necessary to clarify the challenges to encourage further exploration. The performance of CNN based contour detection relies on the state-of-the-art CNN architectures. Careful investigation of their design principles and motivations is critical and beneficial to contour detection. In this paper, we first review recent development of medical image contour detection and point out the current confronting challenges and problems. We discuss the development of general CNNs and their applications in image contours (or edges) detection. We compare those methods in detail, clarify their strengthens and weaknesses. Then we review their recent applications in medical image analysis and point out limitations, with the goal to light some potential directions in medical image analysis. We expect the paper to cover comprehensive technical ingredients of advanced CNNs to enrich the study in the medical image domain.

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