The amount of calcifications in the coronary arteries is a powerful and independent predictor of cardiovascular events and is used to identify subjects at high risk who might benefit from preventive treatment. Routine quantification of coronary calcium scores can complement screening programs using low-dose chest CT, such as lung cancer screening. We present a system for automatic coronary calcium scoring based on deep convolutional neural networks (CNNs). The system uses three independently trained CNNs to estimate a bounding box around the heart. In this region of interest, connected components above 130 HU are considered candidates for coronary artery calcifications. To separate them from other high intensity lesions, classification of all extracted voxels is performed by feeding two-dimensional 50 mm × 50 mm patches from three orthogonal planes into three concurrent CNNs. The networks consist of three convolutional layers and one fully-connected layer with 256 neurons. In the experiments, 1028 non-contrast-enhanced and non-ECG-triggered low-dose chest CT scans were used. The network was trained on 797 scans. In the remaining 231 test scans, the method detected on average 194.3 mm3 of 199.8 mm3 coronary calcifications per scan (sensitivity 97.2 %) with an average false-positive volume of 10.3 mm3 . Subjects were assigned to one of five standard cardiovascular risk categories based on the Agatston score. Accuracy of risk category assignment was 84.4 % with a linearly weighted κ of 0.89. The proposed system can perform automatic coronary artery calcium scoring to identify subjects undergoing low-dose chest CT screening who are at risk of cardiovascular events with high accuracy.
We present a fully automatic method for the assessment of spiculation of pulmonary nodules in low-dose Computed Tomography (CT) images. Spiculation is considered as one of the indicators of nodule malignancy and an important feature to assess in order to decide on a patient-tailored follow-up procedure. For this reason, lung cancer screening scenario would benefit from the presence of a fully automatic system for the assessment of spiculation. The presented framework relies on the fact that spiculated nodules mainly differ from non-spiculated ones in their morphology. In order to discriminate the two categories, information on morphology is captured by sampling intensity profiles along circular patterns on spherical surfaces centered on the nodule, in a multi-scale fashion. Each intensity profile is interpreted as a periodic signal, where the Fourier transform is applied, obtaining a spectrum. A library of spectra is created by clustering data via unsupervised learning. The centroids of the clusters are used to label back each spectrum in the sampling pattern. A compact descriptor encoding the nodule morphology is obtained as the histogram of labels along all the spherical surfaces and used to classify spiculated nodules via supervised learning. We tested our approach on a set of nodules from the Danish Lung Cancer Screening Trial (DLCST) dataset. Our results show that the proposed method outperforms other 3-D descriptors of morphology in the automatic assessment of spiculation.
Computer-Aided Detection (CAD) has been shown to be a promising tool for automatic detection of pulmonary nodules from computed tomography (CT) images. However, the vast majority of detected nodules are benign and do not require any treatment. For effective implementation of lung cancer screening programs, accurate identification of malignant nodules is the key. We investigate strategies to improve the performance of a CAD system in detecting nodules with a high probability of being cancers. Two strategies were proposed: (1) combining CAD detections with a recently published lung cancer risk prediction model and (2) the combination of multiple CAD systems. First, CAD systems were used to detect the nodules. Each CAD system produces markers with a certain degree of suspicion. Next, the malignancy probability was automatically computed for each marker, given nodule characteristics measured by the CAD system. Last, CAD degree of suspicion and malignancy probability were combined using the product rule. We evaluated the method using 62 nodules which were proven to be malignant cancers, from 180 scans of the Danish Lung Cancer Screening Trial. The malignant nodules were considered as positive samples, while all other findings were considered negative. Using a product rule, the best proposed system achieved an improvement in sensitivity, compared to the best individual CAD system, from 41.9% to 72.6% at 2 false positives (FPs)/scan and from 56.5% to 88.7% at 8 FPs/scan. Our experiment shows that combining a nodule malignancy probability with multiple CAD systems can increase the performance of computerized detection of lung cancer.