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In Medical physics ; h5-index 59.0

BACKGROUND : Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive, irreversible, and usually fatal lung disease of unknown reasons, generally affecting the elderly population. Early diagnosis of IPF is crucial for triaging patients' treatment planning into anti-fibrotic treatment or treatments for other causes of pulmonary fibrosis. However, current IPF diagnosis workflow is complicated and time-consuming, which involves collaborative efforts from radiologists, pathologists, and clinicians and it is largely subject to inter-observer variability.

PURPOSE : The purpose of this work is to develop a deep learning-based automated system that can diagnose subjects with IPF among subjects with interstitial lung disease (ILD) using an axial chest computed tomography (CT) scan. This work can potentially enable timely diagnosis decisions and reduce inter-observer variability.

METHODS : Our dataset contains CT scans from 349 IPF patients and 529 non-IPF ILD patients. We used 80% of the dataset for training and validation purposes and 20% as the holdout test set. We proposed a two-stage model: at stage one, we built a Multi-Scale, domain knowledge-Guided Attention model (MSGA) that encouraged the model to focus on specific areas of interest to enhance model explainability, including both high- and medium- resolution attentions; at stage two, we collected the output from MSGA and constructed a random forest (RF) classifier for patient-level diagnosis, to further boost model accuracy. RF classifier is utilized as a final decision stage since it is interpretable, computationally fast, and can handle correlated variables. Model utility was examined by (1) accuracy, represented by the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) with standard deviation (SD), and (2) explainability, illustrated by the visual examination of the estimated attention maps which showed the important areas for model diagnostics.

RESULTS : During the training and validation stage, we observe that when we provide no guidance from domain knowledge, the IPF diagnosis model reaches acceptable performance (AUC ± SD = 0.93 ± 0.07), but lacks explainability; when including only guided high- or medium- resolution attention, the learned attention maps are not satisfactory; when including both high- and medium- resolution attention, under certain hyperparameter settings, the model reaches the highest AUC among all experiments (AUC ± SD = 0.99 ± 0.01) and the estimated attention maps concentrate on the regions of interests for this task. Three best-performing hyperparameter selections according to MSGA were applied to the holdout test set and reached comparable model performance to that of the validation set.

CONCLUSIONS : Our results suggest that, for a task with only scan-level labels available, MSGA+RF can utilize the population-level domain knowledge to guide the training of the network, which increases both model accuracy and explainability. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Yu Wenxi, Zhou Hua, Choi Youngwon, Goldin Jonathan G, Teng Pangyu, Wong Weng Kee, McNitt-Gray Michael F, Brown Matthew S, Kim Grace Hyun J


Attention models, Computed tomography, Deep learning, Domain knowledge, Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, Machine learning, Medical imaging