Recent progress in transformer-based medical image analysis

Comput Biol Med. 2023 Sep:164:107268. doi: 10.1016/j.compbiomed.2023.107268. Epub 2023 Jul 20.


The transformer is primarily used in the field of natural language processing. Recently, it has been adopted and shows promise in the computer vision (CV) field. Medical image analysis (MIA), as a critical branch of CV, also greatly benefits from this state-of-the-art technique. In this review, we first recap the core component of the transformer, the attention mechanism, and the detailed structures of the transformer. After that, we depict the recent progress of the transformer in the field of MIA. We organize the applications in a sequence of different tasks, including classification, segmentation, captioning, registration, detection, enhancement, localization, and synthesis. The mainstream classification and segmentation tasks are further divided into eleven medical image modalities. A large number of experiments studied in this review illustrate that the transformer-based method outperforms existing methods through comparisons with multiple evaluation metrics. Finally, we discuss the open challenges and future opportunities in this field. This task-modality review with the latest contents, detailed information, and comprehensive comparison may greatly benefit the broad MIA community.

Keywords: Attention mechanism; Convolutional neural network; Deep learning; Medical image analysis; Transformer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Benchmarking*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Natural Language Processing*