Trustworthy Medical Segmentation with Uncertainty Estimation

Deep Learning (DL) holds great promise in reshaping the healthcare systems given its precision, efficiency, and objectivity. However, the brittleness of DL models to noisy and out-of-distribution inputs is ailing their deployment in the clinic. Most systems produce point estimates without further information about model uncertainty or confidence. This paper introduces a new Bayesian deep learning framework for uncertainty quantification in segmentation neural networks, specifically encoder-decoder architectures. The proposed framework uses the first-order Taylor series approximation to propagate and learn the first two moments (mean and covariance) of the distribution of the model parameters given the training data by maximizing the evidence lower bound. The output consists of two maps: the segmented image and the uncertainty map of the segmentation. The uncertainty in the segmentation decisions is captured by the covariance matrix of the predictive distribution. We evaluate the proposed framework on medical image segmentation data from Magnetic Resonances Imaging and Computed Tomography scans. Our experiments on multiple benchmark datasets demonstrate that the proposed framework is more robust to noise and adversarial attacks as compared to state-of-the-art segmentation models. Moreover, the uncertainty map of the proposed framework associates low confidence (or equivalently high uncertainty) to patches in the test input images that are corrupted with noise, artifacts or adversarial attacks. Thus, the model can self-assess its segmentation decisions when it makes an erroneous prediction or misses part of the segmentation structures, e.g., tumor, by presenting higher values in the uncertainty map.

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