Automatic Vertebra Labeling in Large-Scale 3D CT Using Deep Image-to-Image Network with Message Passing and Sparsity Regularization


Automatic localization and labeling of vertebra in 3D medical images plays an important role in many clinical tasks, including pathological diagnosis, surgical planning and postoperative assessment. However, the unusual conditions of pathological cases, such as the abnormal spine curvature, bright visual imaging artifacts caused by metal implants, and the limited field of view, increase the difficulties of accurate localization. In this paper, we propose an automatic and fast algorithm to localize and label the vertebra centroids in 3D CT volumes. First, we deploy a deep image-to-image network (DI2IN) to initialize vertebra locations, employing the convolutional encoder-decoder architecture together with multi-level feature concatenation and deep supervision. Next, the centroid probability maps from DI2IN are iteratively evolved with the message passing schemes based on the mutual relation of vertebra centroids. Finally, the localization results are refined with sparsity regularization. The proposed method is evaluated on a public dataset of 302 spine CT volumes with various pathologies. Our method outperforms other state-of-the-art methods in terms of localization accuracy. The run time is around 3 seconds on average per case. To further boost the performance, we retrain the DI2IN on additional 1000+ 3D CT volumes from different patients. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time more than 1000 3D CT volumes with expert annotation are adopted in experiments for the anatomic landmark detection tasks. Our experimental results show that training with such a large dataset significantly improves the performance and the overall identification rate, for the first time by our knowledge, reaches 90%.

Information Processing in Medical Imaging