Deep Learning for Automated Elective Lymph Node Level Segmentation for Head and Neck Cancer Radiotherapy

V. J. Strijbis, Max Dahele, Oliver J. Gurney-Champion, Gerrit J. Blom, Marije R. Vergeer, Benjamin J. Slotman, Wilko F. A. R. Verbakel

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Depending on the clinical situation, different combinations of lymph node (LN) levels define the elective LN target volume in head-and-neck cancer (HNC) radiotherapy. The accurate auto-contouring of individual LN levels could reduce the burden and variability of manual segmentation and be used regardless of the primary tumor location. We evaluated three deep learning approaches for the segmenting individual LN levels I–V, which were manually contoured on CT scans from 70 HNC patients. The networks were trained and evaluated using five-fold cross-validation and ensemble learning for 60 patients with (1) 3D patch-based UNets, (2) multi-view (MV) voxel classification networks and (3) sequential UNet+MV. The performances were evaluated using Dice similarity coefficients (DSC) for automated and manual segmentations for individual levels, and the planning target volumes were extrapolated from the combined levels I–V and II–IV, both for the cross-validation and for an independent test set of 10 patients. The median DSC were 0.80, 0.66 and 0.82 for UNet, MV and UNet+MV, respectively. Overall, UNet+MV significantly (p < 0.0001) outperformed other arrangements and yielded DSC = 0.87, 0.85, 0.86, 0.82, 0.77, 0.77 for the combined and individual level I–V structures, respectively. Both PTVs were also significantly (p < 0.0001) more accurate with UNet+MV, with DSC = 0.91 and 0.90, respectively. The accurate segmentation of individual LN levels I–V can be achieved using an ensemble of UNets. UNet+MV can further refine this result.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5501
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2022

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