Purpose: Radiation dose to cardiac substructures is related to radiation-induced heart disease. However, substructures are not considered in radiation therapy planning (RTP) due to poor visualization on CT. Therefore, we developed a novel deep learning (DL) pipeline leveraging MRI’s soft tissue contrast coupled with CT for state-of-the-art cardiac substructure segmentation requiring a single, non-contrast CT input. Materials/methods: Thirty-two left-sided whole-breast cancer patients underwent cardiac T2 MRI and CT-simulation. A rigid cardiac-confined MR/CT registration enabled ground truth delineations of 12 substructures (chambers, great vessels (GVs), coronary arteries (CAs), etc.). Paired MRI/CT data (25 patients) were placed into separate image channels to train a three-dimensional (3D) neural network using the entire 3D image. Deep supervision and a Dice-weighted multi-class loss function were applied. Results were assessed pre/post augmentation and post-processing (3D conditional random field (CRF)). Results for 11 test CTs (seven unique patients) were compared to ground truth and a multi-atlas method (MA) via Dice similarity coefficient (DSC), mean distance to agreement (MDA), and Wilcoxon signed-ranks tests. Three physicians evaluated clinical acceptance via consensus scoring (5-point scale). Results: The model stabilized in ~19 h (200 epochs, training error <0.001). Augmentation and CRF increased DSC 5.0 ± 7.9% and 1.2 ± 2.5%, across substructures, respectively. DL provided accurate segmentations for chambers (DSC = 0.88 ± 0.03), GVs (DSC = 0.85 ± 0.03), and pulmonary veins (DSC = 0.77 ± 0.04). Combined DSC for CAs was 0.50 ± 0.14. MDA across substructures was <2.0 mm (GV MDA = 1.24 ± 0.31 mm). No substructures had statistical volume differences (P > 0.05) to ground truth. In four cases, DL yielded left main CA contours, whereas MA segmentation failed, and provided improved consensus scores in 44/60 comparisons to MA. DL provided clinically acceptable segmentations for all graded patients for 3/4 chambers. DL contour generation took ~14 s per patient. Conclusions: These promising results suggest DL poses major efficiency and accuracy gains for cardiac substructure segmentation offering high potential for rapid implementation into RTP for improved cardiac sparing.
- deep learning
- magnetic resonance imaging