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In medRxiv : the preprint server for health sciences

Objectives : Ground-glass opacity (GGO) - a hazy, gray appearing density on computed tomography (CT) of lungs - is one of the hallmark features of SARS-CoV-2 in COVID-19 patients. This AI-driven study is focused on segmentation, morphology, and distribution patterns of GGOs.

Method : We use an AI-driven unsupervised machine learning approach called PointNet++ to detect and quantify GGOs in CT scans of COVID-19 patients and to assess the severity of the disease. We have conducted our study on the "MosMedData", which contains CT lung scans of 1110 patients with or without COVID-19 infections. We quantify the morphologies of GGOs using Minkowski tensors and compute the abnormality score of individual regions of segmented lung and GGOs.

Results : PointNet++ detects GGOs with the highest evaluation accuracy (98%), average class accuracy (95%), and intersection over union (92%) using only a fraction of 3D data. On average, the shapes of GGOs in the COVID-19 datasets deviate from sphericity by 15% and anisotropies in GGOs are dominated by dipole and hexapole components. These anisotropies may help to quantitatively delineate GGOs of COVID-19 from other lung diseases.

Conclusion : The PointNet++ and the Minkowski tensor based morphological approach together with abnormality analysis will provide radiologists and clinicians with a valuable set of tools when interpreting CT lung scans of COVID-19 patients. Implementation would be particularly useful in countries severely devastated by COVID-19 such as India, where the number of cases has outstripped available resources creating delays or even breakdowns in patient care. This AI-driven approach synthesizes both the unique GGO distribution pattern and severity of the disease to allow for more efficient diagnosis, triaging and conservation of limited resources.

Key Points : Our approach to GGO analysis has four distinguishing features:We combine an unsupervised computer vision approach with convex hull and convex points algorithms to segment and preserve the actual structure of the lung.To the best of our knowledge, we are the first group to use PointNet++ architecture for 3D visualization, segmentation, classification, and pattern analysis of GGOs.We make abnormality predictions using a deep network and Cox proportional hazards model using lung CT images of COVID-19 patients.We quantify the shapes and sizes of GGOs using Minkowski tensors to understand the morphological variations of GGOs within the COVID-19 cohort.

Saha Monjoy, Amin Sagar B, Sharma Ashish, Kumar T K Satish, Kalia Rajiv K