Automated segmentation of plaque components in carotid artery magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is important to enable large studies on plaque vulnerability, and for incorporating plaque composition as an imaging biomarker in clinical practice. Especially supervised classification techniques, which learn from labeled examples, have shown good performance. However, a disadvantage of supervised methods is their reduced performance on data different from the training data, for example on images acquired with different scanners. Reducing the amount of manual annotations required for each new dataset will facilitate widespread implementation of supervised methods. In this paper we segment carotid plaque components of clinical interest (fibrous tissue, lipid tissue, calcification and intraplaque hemorrhage) in a multi-center MRI study. We perform voxelwise tissue classification by traditional same-center training, and compare results with two approaches that use little or no annotated same-center data. These approaches additionally use an annotated set of different-center data. We evaluate 1) a nonlinear feature normalization approach, and 2) two transfer-learning algorithms that use same and different-center data with different weights. Results showed that the best results were obtained for a combination of feature normalization and transfer learning. While for the other approaches significant differences in voxelwise or mean volume errors were found compared with the reference same-center training, the proposed approach did not yield significant differences from that reference. We conclude that both extensive feature normalization and transfer learning can be valuable for the development of supervised methods that perform well on different types of datasets.

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Keywords Atherosclerosis, carotid, classification, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), segmentation, transfer learning
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Journal IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging
van Engelen, A, Nouwens- van Dijk, A.C, Truijman, M.T.B, Van'T Klooster, R, van Opbroek, A, van der Lugt, A, … de Bruijne, M. (2015). Multi-Center MRI Carotid Plaque Component Segmentation Using Feature Normalization and Transfer Learning. IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging, 34(6), 1294–1305. doi:10.1109/TMI.2014.2384733