Kernel Conversion for Robust Quantitative Measurements of Archived Chest Computed Tomography Using Deep Learning-Based Image-to-Image Translation

Naoya Tanabe, Shizuo Kaji, Hiroshi Shima, Yusuke Shiraishi, Tomoki Maetani, Tsuyoshi Oguma, Susumu Sato, Toyohiro Hirai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Chest computed tomography (CT) is used to screen for lung cancer and evaluate pulmonary and extra-pulmonary abnormalities such as emphysema and coronary artery calcification, particularly in smokers. In real-world practice, lung abnormalities are visually assessed using high-contrast thin-slice images which are generated from raw scan data using sharp reconstruction kernels with the sacrifice of increased image noise. In contrast, accurate CT quantification requires low-contrast thin-slice images with low noise, which are generated using soft reconstruction kernels. However, only sharp-kernel thin-slice images are archived in many medical facilities due to limited data storage space. This study aimed to establish deep neural network (DNN) models to convert sharp-kernel images to soft-kernel-like images with a final goal to reuse historical chest CT images for robust quantitative measurements, particularly in completed previous longitudinal studies. By using pairs of sharp-kernel (input) and soft-kernel (ground-truth) images from 30 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), DNN models were trained. Then, the accuracy of kernel conversion based on the established DNN models was evaluated using CT from independent 30 smokers with and without COPD. Consequently, differences in CT values between new images converted from sharp-kernel images using the established DNN models and ground-truth soft-kernel images were comparable with the inter-scans variability derived from repeated phantom scans (6 times), showing that the conversion error was the same level as the measurement error of the CT device. Moreover, the Dice coefficients to quantify the similarity between low attenuation voxels on given images and the ground-truth soft-kernel images were significantly higher on the DNN-converted images than the Gaussian-filtered, median-filtered, and sharp-kernel images (p < 0.001). There were good agreements in quantitative measurements of emphysema, intramuscular adipose tissue, and coronary artery calcification between the converted and the ground-truth soft-kernel images. These findings demonstrate the validity of the new DNN model for kernel conversion and the clinical applicability of soft-kernel-like images converted from archived sharp-kernel images in previous clinical studies. The presented method to evaluate the validity of the established DNN model using repeated scans of phantom could be applied to various deep learning-based image conversions for robust quantitative evaluation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number769557
JournalFrontiers in Artificial Intelligence
Publication statusPublished - Jan 17 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Artificial Intelligence


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