Asymmetric multi-task attention network for prostate bed segmentation in computed tomography images

Med Image Anal. 2021 Aug:72:102116. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2021 May 28.


Post-prostatectomy radiotherapy requires accurate annotation of the prostate bed (PB), i.e., the residual tissue after the operative removal of the prostate gland, to minimize side effects on surrounding organs-at-risk (OARs). However, PB segmentation in computed tomography (CT) images is a challenging task, even for experienced physicians. This is because PB is almost a "virtual" target with non-contrast boundaries and highly variable shapes depending on neighboring OARs. In this work, we propose an asymmetric multi-task attention network (AMTA-Net) for the concurrent segmentation of PB and surrounding OARs. Our AMTA-Net mimics experts in delineating the non-contrast PB by explicitly leveraging its critical dependency on the neighboring OARs (i.e., the bladder and rectum), which are relatively easy to distinguish in CT images. Specifically, we first adopt a U-Net as the backbone network for the low-level (or prerequisite) task of the OAR segmentation. Then, we build an attention sub-network upon the backbone U-Net with a series of cascaded attention modules, which can hierarchically transfer the OAR features and adaptively learn discriminative representations for the high-level (or primary) task of the PB segmentation. We comprehensively evaluate the proposed AMTA-Net on a clinical dataset composed of 186 CT images. According to the experimental results, our AMTA-Net significantly outperforms current clinical state-of-the-arts (i.e., atlas-based segmentation methods), indicating the value of our method in reducing time and labor in the clinical workflow. Our AMTA-Net also presents better performance than the technical state-of-the-arts (i.e., the deep learning-based segmentation methods), especially for the most indistinguishable and clinically critical part of the PB boundaries. Source code is released at

Keywords: Attention mechanism; Computed tomography; Deep learning; Multi-task; Prostate bed; Segmentation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Organs at Risk
  • Prostate* / diagnostic imaging
  • Rectum
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*