Fully automated AI-based splenic segmentation for predicting survival and estimating the risk of hepatic decompensation in TACE patients with HCC

Eur Radiol. 2022 Sep;32(9):6302-6313. doi: 10.1007/s00330-022-08737-z. Epub 2022 Apr 8.


Objectives: Splenic volume (SV) was proposed as a relevant prognostic factor for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). We trained a deep-learning algorithm to fully automatically assess SV based on computed tomography (CT) scans. Then, we investigated SV as a prognostic factor for patients with HCC undergoing transarterial chemoembolization (TACE).

Methods: This retrospective study included 327 treatment-naïve patients with HCC undergoing initial TACE at our tertiary care center between 2010 and 2020. A convolutional neural network was trained and validated on the first 100 consecutive cases for spleen segmentation. Then, we used the algorithm to evaluate SV in all 327 patients. Subsequently, we evaluated correlations between SV and survival as well as the risk of hepatic decompensation during TACE.

Results: The algorithm showed Sørensen Dice Scores of 0.96 during both training and validation. In the remaining 227 patients assessed with the algorithm, spleen segmentation was visually approved in 223 patients (98.2%) and failed in four patients (1.8%), which required manual re-assessments. Mean SV was 551 ml. Survival was significantly lower in patients with high SV (10.9 months), compared to low SV (22.0 months, p = 0.001). In contrast, overall survival was not significantly predicted by axial and craniocaudal spleen diameter. Furthermore, patients with a hepatic decompensation after TACE had significantly higher SV (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: Automated SV assessments showed superior survival predictions in patients with HCC undergoing TACE compared to two-dimensional spleen size estimates and identified patients at risk of hepatic decompensation. Thus, SV could serve as an automatically available, currently underappreciated imaging biomarker.

Key points: • Splenic volume is a relevant prognostic factor for prediction of survival in patients with HCC undergoing TACE, and should be preferred over two-dimensional surrogates for splenic size. • Besides overall survival, progression-free survival and hepatic decompensation were significantly associated with splenic volume, making splenic volume a currently underappreciated prognostic factor prior to TACE. • Splenic volume can be fully automatically assessed using deep-learning methods; thus, it is a promising imaging biomarker easily integrable into daily radiological routine.

Keywords: Artificial intelligence; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Splenic volume; Transarterial chemoembolization.

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / therapy
  • Chemoembolization, Therapeutic* / methods
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spleen / diagnostic imaging
  • Spleen / pathology
  • Treatment Outcome