P174 - Comparing Objective Functions for Segmentation and Detection of Tiny Lesions in Retinal Images

Jakob Kristian Holm Andersen, Thiusius Rajeeth Savarimuthu, Jakob Grauslund

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Retinal microaneurysms (MAs) are the earliest signs of diabetic retinopathy (DR) which is the leading cause of blindness in the western world. MAs independently predict the risk of sight threatening DR and early detection is important to identify patients at risk. Detection and segmentation of retinal MAs present a particular challenging problem due to a large class imbalance with MA pixels accounting for less than 0.5% of the retinal image. Extreme foreground-background class imbalance can adversely affect the learning process in DNNs by introducing a bias towards the most well represented class. Recently, a number of objective functions have been proposed as alternatives to the standard Crossentropy loss in efforts to overcome this problem. In this work we investigate the influence of the network objective during optimization by comparing Residual U-nets trained for segmentation of MAs in retinal images using seven different objective functions; weighted and unweighted Crossentropy loss, Dice loss, weighted and unweighted Focal loss, Focal Dice loss and Focal Tversky loss. Three networks with different seeds are trained for each objective function using optimized hyper-parameter settings on a dataset of 382 images with pixel level annotations for MAs. The instance level MA detection performance is evaluated as the average free response receiver operator characteristic (FROC) score calculated as the mean sensitivity at seven average false positives (FPAvg) per image thresholds on 80 test images. The image level MA detection performance is evaluated as the average AUC on the same images as well as a separate test set of 1200 images. Segmentation performance is evaluated as the average pixel precision (AP). The unweighted Crossentropy loss and Focal loss outperforms all other losses for instance level detection achieving FROC scores of 0.5067(±0.0115) and 0.5062(±0.0045. The Focal loss has the highest pixel precision with an AP of 0.4254(±0.0096). For image level detection both objective functions in their unweighted form perform significantly better compared to using all other objectives. AUCs of 0.9450(±0.0080) and 0.8351(±0.0039) on the two test are achieved using the unweighted Crossentropy loss, while AUCs for the unweighted Focal loss was 0.9375(±0.0074) and 0.8253(±0.0042) respectivly. Conclusion: Despite the promise of using training objectives designed to deal with unbalanced data, the standard Crossentropy loss perform at least as well or better than all other objective functions in our experiments for lesion level and image level detection for small retinal MAs. While a number of newer objective functions have been introduced and shown to improve performance for unbalanced datasets compared to the Dice loss in recent years, our results suggest that it is important to also benchmark new losses against the Crossentropy or Focal loss function, as we achieve the best performance in all our test using these objectives.
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Poster Session #1 - 9:30 - 11:00 UTC-4 (Monday)
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