Deep learning techniques are being rapidly applied to medical imaging tasks-from organ and lesion segmentation to tissue and tumor classification. These techniques are becoming the leading algorithmic approaches to solve inherently difficult image processing tasks. Currently, the most critical requirement for successful implementation lies in the need for relatively large datasets that can be used for training the deep learning networks. Based on our initial studies of MR imaging examinations of the kidneys of patients affected by polycystic kidney disease (PKD), we have generated a unique database of imaging data and corresponding reference standard segmentations of polycystic kidneys. In the study of PKD, segmentation of the kidneys is needed in order to measure total kidney volume (TKV). Automated methods to segment the kidneys and measure TKV are needed to increase measurement throughput and alleviate the inherent variability of human-derived measurements. We hypothesize that deep learning techniques can be leveraged to perform fast, accurate, reproducible, and fully automated segmentation of polycystic kidneys. Here, we describe a fully automated approach for segmenting PKD kidneys within MR images that simulates a multi-observer approach in order to create an accurate and robust method for the task of segmentation and computation of TKV for PKD patients. A total of 2000 cases were used for training and validation, and 400 cases were used for testing. The multi-observer ensemble method had mean ± SD percent volume difference of 0.68 ± 2.2% compared with the reference standard segmentations. The complete framework performs fully automated segmentation at a level comparable with interobserver variability and could be considered as a replacement for the task of segmentation of PKD kidneys by a human.
Keywords: Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease; Deep learning; Magnetic resonance imaging; Planimetry; Segmentation; Total kidney volume.