Deep-learning convolutional neural networks with transfer learning accurately classify COVID-19 lung infection on portable chest radiographs

PeerJ. 2020 Nov 5;8:e10309. doi: 10.7717/peerj.10309. eCollection 2020.


Portable chest X-ray (pCXR) has become an indispensable tool in the management of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) lung infection. This study employed deep-learning convolutional neural networks to classify COVID-19 lung infections on pCXR from normal and related lung infections to potentially enable more timely and accurate diagnosis. This retrospect study employed deep-learning convolutional neural network (CNN) with transfer learning to classify based on pCXRs COVID-19 pneumonia (N = 455) on pCXR from normal (N = 532), bacterial pneumonia (N = 492), and non-COVID viral pneumonia (N = 552). The data was randomly split into 75% training and 25% testing, randomly. A five-fold cross-validation was used for the testing set separately. Performance was evaluated using receiver-operating curve analysis. Comparison was made with CNN operated on the whole pCXR and segmented lungs. CNN accurately classified COVID-19 pCXR from those of normal, bacterial pneumonia, and non-COVID-19 viral pneumonia patients in a multiclass model. The overall sensitivity, specificity, accuracy, and AUC were 0.79, 0.93, and 0.79, 0.85 respectively (whole pCXR), and were 0.91, 0.93, 0.88, and 0.89 (CXR of segmented lung). The performance was generally better using segmented lungs. Heatmaps showed that CNN accurately localized areas of hazy appearance, ground glass opacity and/or consolidation on the pCXR. Deep-learning convolutional neural network with transfer learning accurately classifies COVID-19 on portable chest X-ray against normal, bacterial pneumonia or non-COVID viral pneumonia. This approach has the potential to help radiologists and frontline physicians by providing more timely and accurate diagnosis.

Keywords: Chest X-ray; Computed tomography; Coronavirus; Lung infection; Machine learning.

Grant support

The authors received no funding for this work.