Ultra-low-dose chest CT imaging of COVID-19 patients using a deep residual neural network

Eur Radiol. 2020 Sep 3. doi: 10.1007/s00330-020-07225-6. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVES: The current study aimed to design an ultra-low-dose CT examination protocol using a deep learning approach suitable for clinical diagnosis of COVID-19 patients.

METHODS: In this study, 800, 170, and 171 pairs of ultra-low-dose and full-dose CT images were used as input/output as training, test, and external validation set, respectively, to implement the full-dose prediction technique. A residual convolutional neural network was applied to generate full-dose from ultra-low-dose CT images. The quality of predicted CT images was assessed using root mean square error (RMSE), structural similarity index (SSIM), and peak signal-to-noise ratio (PSNR). Scores ranging from 1 to 5 were assigned reflecting subjective assessment of image quality and related COVID-19 features, including ground glass opacities (GGO), crazy paving (CP), consolidation (CS), nodular infiltrates (NI), bronchovascular thickening (BVT), and pleural effusion (PE).

RESULTS: The radiation dose in terms of CT dose index (CTDIvol) was reduced by up to 89%. The RMSE decreased from 0.16 ± 0.05 to 0.09 ± 0.02 and from 0.16 ± 0.06 to 0.08 ± 0.02 for the predicted compared with ultra-low-dose CT images in the test and external validation set, respectively. The overall scoring assigned by radiologists showed an acceptance rate of 4.72 ± 0.57 out of 5 for reference full-dose CT images, while ultra-low-dose CT images rated 2.78 ± 0.9. The predicted CT images using the deep learning algorithm achieved a score of 4.42 ± 0.8.

CONCLUSIONS: The results demonstrated that the deep learning algorithm is capable of predicting standard full-dose CT images with acceptable quality for the clinical diagnosis of COVID-19 positive patients with substantial radiation dose reduction.

KEY POINTS: • Ultra-low-dose CT imaging of COVID-19 patients would result in the loss of critical information about lesion types, which could potentially affect clinical diagnosis. • Deep learning-based prediction of full-dose from ultra-low-dose CT images for the diagnosis of COVID-19 could reduce the radiation dose by up to 89%. • Deep learning algorithms failed to recover the correct lesion structure/density for a number of patients considered outliers, and as such, further research and development is warranted to address these limitations.

PMID:32879987 | DOI:10.1007/s00330-020-07225-6