Deep semi-supervised learning for automatic segmentation of inferior alveolar nerve using a convolutional neural network

BMC Oral Health. 2021 Dec 7;21(1):630. doi: 10.1186/s12903-021-01983-5.


Background: The inferior alveolar nerve (IAN) innervates and regulates the sensation of the mandibular teeth and lower lip. The position of the IAN should be monitored prior to surgery. Therefore, a study using artificial intelligence (AI) was planned to image and track the position of the IAN automatically for a quicker and safer surgery.

Methods: A total of 138 cone-beam computed tomography datasets (Internal: 98, External: 40) collected from multiple centers (three hospitals) were used in the study. A customized 3D nnU-Net was used for image segmentation. Active learning, which consists of three steps, was carried out in iterations for 83 datasets with cumulative additions after each step. Subsequently, the accuracy of the model for IAN segmentation was evaluated using the 50 datasets. The accuracy by deriving the dice similarity coefficient (DSC) value and the segmentation time for each learning step were compared. In addition, visual scoring was considered to comparatively evaluate the manual and automatic segmentation.

Results: After learning, the DSC gradually increased to 0.48 ± 0.11 to 0.50 ± 0.11, and 0.58 ± 0.08. The DSC for the external dataset was 0.49 ± 0.12. The times required for segmentation were 124.8, 143.4, and 86.4 s, showing a large decrease at the final stage. In visual scoring, the accuracy of manual segmentation was found to be higher than that of automatic segmentation.

Conclusions: The deep active learning framework can serve as a fast, accurate, and robust clinical tool for demarcating IAN location.

Keywords: Automatic segmentation; Convolutional neural network; Deep learning; Inferior alveolar nerve.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Intelligence*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Mandibular Nerve / diagnostic imaging
  • Neural Networks, Computer
  • Supervised Machine Learning