Automatic image segmentation is an essential step for many medical image analysis applications, include computer-aided radiation therapy, disease diagnosis, and treatment effect evaluation. One of the major challenges for this task is the blurry nature of medical images (e.g., CT, MR, and microscopic images), which can often result in low-contrast and vanishing boundaries. With the recent advances in convolutional neural networks, vast improvements have been made for image segmentation, mainly based on the skip-connection-linked encoder-decoder deep architectures. However, in many applications (with adjacent targets in blurry images), these models often fail to accurately locate complex boundaries and properly segment tiny isolated parts. In this paper, we aim to provide a method for blurry medical image segmentation and argue that skip connections are not enough to help accurately locate indistinct boundaries. Accordingly, we propose a novel high-resolution multi-scale encoder-decoder network (HMEDN), in which multi-scale dense connections are introduced for the encoder-decoder structure to finely exploit comprehensive semantic information. Besides skip connections, extra deeply supervised high-resolution pathways (comprised of densely connected dilated convolutions) are integrated to collect high-resolution semantic information for accurate boundary localization. These pathways are paired with a difficulty-guided cross-entropy loss function and a contour regression task to enhance the quality of boundary detection. The extensive experiments on a pelvic CT image dataset, a multi-modal brain tumor dataset, and a cell segmentation dataset show the effectiveness of our method for 2D/3D semantic segmentation and 2D instance segmentation, respectively. Our experimental results also show that besides increasing the network complexity, raising the resolution of semantic feature maps can largely affect the overall model performance. For different tasks, finding a balance between these two factors can further improve the performance of the corresponding network.
- high-resolution pathway
- Image segmentation
- low-contrast image
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design