3D Matting: A Soft Segmentation Method Applied in Computed Tomography

Lin Wang, Xiufen Ye, Donghao Zhang, Wanji He, Lie Ju, Xin Wang, Wei Feng, Kaimin Song, Xin Zhao, ZongYuan Ge

Three-dimensional (3D) images, such as CT, MRI, and PET, are common in medical imaging applications and important in clinical diagnosis. Semantic ambiguity is a typical feature of many medical image labels. It can be caused by many factors, such as the imaging properties, pathological anatomy, and the weak representation of the binary masks, which brings challenges to accurate 3D segmentation. In 2D medical images, using soft masks instead of binary masks generated by image matting to characterize lesions can provide rich semantic information, describe the structural characteristics of lesions more comprehensively, and thus benefit the subsequent diagnoses and analyses. In this work, we introduce image matting into the 3D scenes to describe the lesions in 3D medical images. The study of image matting in 3D modality is limited, and there is no high-quality annotated dataset related to 3D matting, therefore slowing down the development of data-driven deep-learning-based methods. To address this issue, we constructed the first 3D medical matting dataset and convincingly verified the validity of the dataset through quality control and downstream experiments in lung nodules classification. We then adapt the four selected state-of-the-art 2D image matting algorithms to 3D scenes and further customize the methods for CT images. Also, we propose the first end-to-end deep 3D matting network and implement a solid 3D medical image matting benchmark, which will be released to encourage further research.

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