COVID-19 Pneumonia Diagnosis Using a Simple 2D Deep Learning Framework With a Single Chest CT Image: Model Development and Validation

J Med Internet Res. 2020 Jun 29;22(6):e19569. doi: 10.2196/19569.


Background: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has spread explosively worldwide since the beginning of 2020. According to a multinational consensus statement from the Fleischner Society, computed tomography (CT) is a relevant screening tool due to its higher sensitivity for detecting early pneumonic changes. However, physicians are extremely occupied fighting COVID-19 in this era of worldwide crisis. Thus, it is crucial to accelerate the development of an artificial intelligence (AI) diagnostic tool to support physicians.

Objective: We aimed to rapidly develop an AI technique to diagnose COVID-19 pneumonia in CT images and differentiate it from non-COVID-19 pneumonia and nonpneumonia diseases.

Methods: A simple 2D deep learning framework, named the fast-track COVID-19 classification network (FCONet), was developed to diagnose COVID-19 pneumonia based on a single chest CT image. FCONet was developed by transfer learning using one of four state-of-the-art pretrained deep learning models (VGG16, ResNet-50, Inception-v3, or Xception) as a backbone. For training and testing of FCONet, we collected 3993 chest CT images of patients with COVID-19 pneumonia, other pneumonia, and nonpneumonia diseases from Wonkwang University Hospital, Chonnam National University Hospital, and the Italian Society of Medical and Interventional Radiology public database. These CT images were split into a training set and a testing set at a ratio of 8:2. For the testing data set, the diagnostic performance of the four pretrained FCONet models to diagnose COVID-19 pneumonia was compared. In addition, we tested the FCONet models on an external testing data set extracted from embedded low-quality chest CT images of COVID-19 pneumonia in recently published papers.

Results: Among the four pretrained models of FCONet, ResNet-50 showed excellent diagnostic performance (sensitivity 99.58%, specificity 100.00%, and accuracy 99.87%) and outperformed the other three pretrained models in the testing data set. In the additional external testing data set using low-quality CT images, the detection accuracy of the ResNet-50 model was the highest (96.97%), followed by Xception, Inception-v3, and VGG16 (90.71%, 89.38%, and 87.12%, respectively).

Conclusions: FCONet, a simple 2D deep learning framework based on a single chest CT image, provides excellent diagnostic performance in detecting COVID-19 pneumonia. Based on our testing data set, the FCONet model based on ResNet-50 appears to be the best model, as it outperformed other FCONet models based on VGG16, Xception, and Inception-v3.

Keywords: COVID-19; CT; artificial intelligence; chest CT; convolutional neural networks, transfer learning; deep learning; diagnosis; neural network; pneumonia; scan.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnostic imaging*
  • Coronavirus Infections / pathology
  • Deep Learning*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / pathology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / standards*

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2