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Open-Source Automated Segmentation of Neuronal Structures in Corneal Confocal Microscopy Images of the Subbasal Nerve Plexus With Accuracy on Par With Human Segmentation

Cornea. 2023 Oct 1;42(10):1309-1319. doi: 10.1097/ICO.0000000000003319. Epub 2023 Jul 7.


PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to perform automated segmentation of corneal nerves and other structures in corneal confocal microscopy (CCM) images of the subbasal nerve plexus (SNP) in eyes with ocular surface diseases (OSDs).

METHODS: A deep learning-based 2-stage algorithm was designed to perform segmentation of SNP features. In the first stage, to address applanation artifacts, a generative adversarial network-enabled deep network was constructed to identify 3 neighboring corneal layers on each CCM image: epithelium, SNP, and stroma. This network was trained/validated on 470 images of each layer from 73 individuals. The segmented SNP regions were further classified in the second stage by another deep network as follows: background, nerve, neuroma, and immune cells. Twenty-one-fold cross-validation was used to assess the performance of the overall algorithm on a separate data set of 207 manually segmented SNP images from 43 patients with OSD.

RESULTS: For the background, nerve, neuroma, and immune cell classes, the Dice similarity coefficients of the proposed automatic method were 0.992, 0.814, 0.748, and 0.736, respectively. The performance metrics for automatic segmentations were statistically better or equal as compared to human segmentation. In addition, the resulting clinical metrics had good to excellent intraclass correlation coefficients between automatic and human segmentations.

CONCLUSIONS: The proposed automatic method can reliably segment potential CCM biomarkers of OSD onset and progression with accuracy on par with human gradings in real clinical data, which frequently exhibited image acquisition artifacts. To facilitate future studies on OSD, we made our data set and algorithms freely available online as an open-source software package.

PMID:37669422 | DOI:10.1097/ICO.0000000000003319

By Nevin Manimala

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