Exploring a frequency-domain attention-guided cascade U-Net: Towards spatially tunable segmentation of vasculature

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Health Research Institute; Institute of Computing and Cybersystems; Department of Biomedical Engineering


Developing fully automatic and highly accurate medical image segmentation methods is critically important for vascular disease diagnosis and treatment planning. Although advances in convolutional neural networks (CNNs) have spawned an array of automatic segmentation models converging to saturated high performance, none have explored whether CNNs can achieve (spatially) tunable segmentation. As a result, we propose multiple attention modules from a frequency-domain perspective to construct a unified CNN architecture for segmenting vasculature with desired (spatial) scales. The proposed CNN architecture is named frequency-domain attention-guided cascaded U-Net (FACU-Net). Specifically, FACU-Net contains two innovative components: (1) a frequency-domain-based channel attention module that adaptively tunes channel-wise feature responses and (2) a frequency-domain-based spatial attention module that enables the deep network to concentrate on foreground regions of interest (ROIs) effectively. Furthermore, we devised a novel frequency-domain-based content attention module to enhance or weaken the high (spatial) frequency information, allowing us to strengthen or eliminate vessels of interest. Extensive experiments using clinical data from patients with intracranial aneurysms (IA) and abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) demonstrated that the proposed FACU-Net met its design goal. In addition, we further investigated the association between varying (spatial) frequency components and the desirable vessel size/scale attributes. In summary, our preliminary findings are encouraging, and further developments may lead to deployable image segmentation models that are spatially tunable for clinical applications.

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Computers in biology and medicine