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.
©Hoon Ko, Heewon Chung, Wu Seong Kang, Kyung Won Kim, Youngbin Shin, Seung Ji Kang, Jae Hoon Lee, Young Jun Kim, Nan Yeol Kim, Hyunseok Jung, Jinseok Lee. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 29.06.2020.