Self-Ensembling Contrastive Learning for Semi-Supervised Medical Image Segmentation

27 May 2021  ·  Jinxi Xiang, Zhuowei Li, Wenji Wang, Qing Xia, Shaoting Zhang ·

Deep learning has demonstrated significant improvements in medical image segmentation using a sufficiently large amount of training data with manual labels. Acquiring well-representative labels requires expert knowledge and exhaustive labors. In this paper, we aim to boost the performance of semi-supervised learning for medical image segmentation with limited labels using a self-ensembling contrastive learning technique. To this end, we propose to train an encoder-decoder network at image-level with small amounts of labeled images, and more importantly, we learn latent representations directly at feature-level by imposing contrastive loss on unlabeled images. This method strengthens intra-class compactness and inter-class separability, so as to get a better pixel classifier. Moreover, we devise a student encoder for online learning and an exponential moving average version of it, called teacher encoder, to improve the performance iteratively in a self-ensembling manner. To construct contrastive samples with unlabeled images, two sampling strategies that exploit structure similarity across medical images and utilize pseudo-labels for construction, termed region-aware and anatomical-aware contrastive sampling, are investigated. We conduct extensive experiments on an MRI and a CT segmentation dataset and demonstrate that in a limited label setting, the proposed method achieves state-of-the-art performance. Moreover, the anatomical-aware strategy that prepares contrastive samples on-the-fly using pseudo-labels realizes better contrastive regularization on feature representations.

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