A deep learning-based self-adapting ensemble method for segmentation in gynecological brachytherapy


Abstract Purpose Fast and accurate outlining of the organs at risk (OARs) and high-risk clinical tumor volume (HRCTV) is especially important in high-dose-rate brachytherapy due to the highly time-intensive online treatment planning process and the high dose gradient around the HRCTV. This study aims to apply a self-configured ensemble method for fast and reproducible auto-segmentation of OARs and HRCTVs in gynecological cancer. Materials and methods We applied nnU-Net (no new U-Net), an automatically adapted deep convolutional neural network based on U-Net, to segment the bladder, rectum and HRCTV on CT images in gynecological cancer. In nnU-Net, three architectures, including 2D U-Net, 3D U-Net and 3D-Cascade U-Net, were trained and finally ensembled. 207 cases were randomly chosen for training, and 30 for testing. Quantitative evaluation used well-established image segmentation metrics, including dice similarity coefficient (DSC), 95% Hausdorff distance (HD95%), and average surface distance (ASD). Qualitative analysis of automated segmentation results was performed visually by two radiation oncologists. The dosimetric evaluation was performed by comparing the dose-volume parameters of both predicted segmentation and human contouring. Results nnU-Net obtained high qualitative and quantitative segmentation accuracy on the test dataset and performed better than previously reported methods in bladder and rectum segmentation. In quantitative evaluation, 3D-Cascade achieved the best performance in the bladder (DSC: 0.936 ± 0.051, HD95%: 3.503 ± 1.956, ASD: 0.944 ± 0.503), rectum (DSC: 0.831 ± 0.074, HD95%: 7.579 ± 5.857, ASD: 3.6 ± 3.485), and HRCTV (DSC: 0.836 ± 0.07, HD95%: 7.42 ± 5.023, ASD: 2.094 ± 1.311). According to the qualitative evaluation, over 76% of the test data set had no or minor visually detectable errors in segmentation. Conclusion This work showed nnU-Net’s superiority in segmenting OARs and HRCTV in gynecological brachytherapy cases in our center, among which 3D-Cascade shows the highest accuracy in segmentation across different applicators and patient anatomy.

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