Automatic Detection and Characterization of Coronary Artery Plaque and Stenosis using a Recurrent Convolutional Neural Network in Coronary CT Angiography

by   Majd Zreik, et al.

Different types of atherosclerotic plaque and varying grades of stenosis lead to different management of patients with obstructive coronary artery disease. Therefore, it is crucial to determine the presence and classify the type of coronary artery plaque, as well as to determine the presence and the degree of a stenosis. The study includes consecutively acquired coronary CT angiography (CCTA) scans of 131 patients. In these, presence and plaque type in the coronary arteries (no plaque, non-calcified, mixed, calcified) as well as presence and anatomical significance of coronary stenosis (no stenosis, non-significant, significant) were manually annotated by identifying the start and end points of the fragment of the artery affected by the plaque. To perform automatic analysis, a multi-task recurrent convolutional neural network is utilized. The network uses CCTA and coronary artery centerline as its inputs, and extracts features from the region defined along the coronary artery centerline using a 3D convolutional neural network. Subsequently, the extracted features are used by a recurrent neural network that performs two simultaneous multi-label classification tasks. In the first task, the network detects and characterizes the type of the coronary artery plaque. In the second task, the network detects and determines the anatomical significance of the coronary artery stenosis. The results demonstrate that automatic characterization of coronary artery plaque and stenosis with high accuracy and reliability is feasible. This may enable automated triage of patients to those without coronary plaque, and those with coronary plaque and stenosis in need for further cardiovascular workup.


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