Segmentation stability of human head and neck cancer medical images for radiotherapy applications under de-identification conditions: Benchmarking data sharing and artificial intelligence use-cases

Jaakko Sahlsten, Kareem A. Wahid, Enrico Glerean, Joel Jaskari, Mohamed A. Naser, Renjie He, Benjamin H. Kann, Antti Mäkitie, Clifton D. Fuller*, Kimmo Kaski*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background: Demand for head and neck cancer (HNC) radiotherapy data in algorithmic development has prompted increased image dataset sharing. Medical images must comply with data protection requirements so that re-use is enabled without disclosing patient identifiers. Defacing, i.e., the removal of facial features from images, is often considered a reasonable compromise between data protection and re-usability for neuroimaging data. While defacing tools have been developed by the neuroimaging community, their acceptability for radiotherapy applications have not been explored. Therefore, this study systematically investigated the impact of available defacing algorithms on HNC organs at risk (OARs). Methods: A publicly available dataset of magnetic resonance imaging scans for 55 HNC patients with eight segmented OARs (bilateral submandibular glands, parotid glands, level II neck lymph nodes, level III neck lymph nodes) was utilized. Eight publicly available defacing algorithms were investigated: afni_refacer, DeepDefacer, defacer, fsl_deface, mask_face, mri_deface, pydeface, and quickshear. Using a subset of scans where defacing succeeded (N=29), a 5-fold cross-validation 3D U-net based OAR auto-segmentation model was utilized to perform two main experiments: 1.) comparing original and defaced data for training when evaluated on original data; 2.) using original data for training and comparing the model evaluation on original and defaced data. Models were primarily assessed using the Dice similarity coefficient (DSC). Results: Most defacing methods were unable to produce any usable images for evaluation, while mask_face, fsl_deface, and pydeface were unable to remove the face for 29%, 18%, and 24% of subjects, respectively. When using the original data for evaluation, the composite OAR DSC was statistically higher (p ≤ 0.05) for the model trained with the original data with a DSC of 0.760 compared to the mask_face, fsl_deface, and pydeface models with DSCs of 0.742, 0.736, and 0.449, respectively. Moreover, the model trained with original data had decreased performance (p ≤ 0.05) when evaluated on the defaced data with DSCs of 0.673, 0.693, and 0.406 for mask_face, fsl_deface, and pydeface, respectively. Conclusion: Defacing algorithms may have a significant impact on HNC OAR auto-segmentation model training and testing. This work highlights the need for further development of HNC-specific image anonymization methods.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1120392
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalFRONTIERS IN ONCOLOGY
Volume13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • anonymization
  • artificial intelligence (AI)
  • autosegmentation
  • defacing
  • head and neck cancer
  • medical imaging
  • MRI
  • radiotherapy

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