Automatic classification of white regions in liver biopsies by supervised machine learning

Hum Pathol. 2014 Apr;45(4):785-92. doi: 10.1016/j.humpath.2013.11.011. Epub 2013 Nov 26.


Automated assessment of histological features of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) may reduce human variability and provide continuous rather than semiquantitative measurement of these features. As part of a larger effort, we perform automatic classification of steatosis, the cardinal feature of NAFLD, and other regions that manifest as white in images of hematoxylin and eosin-stained liver biopsy sections. These regions include macrosteatosis, central veins, portal veins, portal arteries, sinusoids and bile ducts. Digital images of hematoxylin and eosin-stained slides of 47 liver biopsies from patients with normal liver histology (n = 20) and NAFLD (n = 27) were obtained at 20× magnification. The images were analyzed using supervised machine learning classifiers created from annotations provided by two expert pathologists. The classification algorithm performs with 89% overall accuracy. It identified macrosteatosis, bile ducts, portal veins and sinusoids with high precision and recall (≥ 82%). Identification of central veins and portal arteries was less robust but still good. The accuracy of the classifier in identifying macrosteatosis is the best reported. The accurate automated identification of macrosteatosis achieved with this algorithm has useful clinical and research-related applications. The accurate detection of liver microscopic anatomical landmarks may facilitate important subsequent tasks, such as localization of other histological lesions according to liver microscopic anatomy.

Keywords: Digital image analysis; NAFLD; Sensitivity and specificity; Steatosis; Variability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Artificial Intelligence*
  • Biopsy
  • Fatty Liver / classification*
  • Fatty Liver / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease