CAD-RADS scoring of coronary CT angiography with Multi-Axis Vision Transformer: a clinically-inspired deep learning pipeline

by   Alessia Gerbasi, et al.

The standard non-invasive imaging technique used to assess the severity and extent of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is Coronary Computed Tomography Angiography (CCTA). However, manual grading of each patient's CCTA according to the CAD-Reporting and Data System (CAD-RADS) scoring is time-consuming and operator-dependent, especially in borderline cases. This work proposes a fully automated, and visually explainable, deep learning pipeline to be used as a decision support system for the CAD screening procedure. The pipeline performs two classification tasks: firstly, identifying patients who require further clinical investigations and secondly, classifying patients into subgroups based on the degree of stenosis, according to commonly used CAD-RADS thresholds. The pipeline pre-processes multiplanar projections of the coronary arteries, extracted from the original CCTAs, and classifies them using a fine-tuned Multi-Axis Vision Transformer architecture. With the aim of emulating the current clinical practice, the model is trained to assign a per-patient score by stacking the bi-dimensional longitudinal cross-sections of the three main coronary arteries along channel dimension. Furthermore, it generates visually interpretable maps to assess the reliability of the predictions. When run on a database of 1873 three-channel images of 253 patients collected at the Monzino Cardiology Center in Milan, the pipeline obtained an AUC of 0.87 and 0.93 for the two classification tasks, respectively. According to our knowledge, this is the first model trained to assign CAD-RADS scores learning solely from patient scores and not requiring finer imaging annotation steps that are not part of the clinical routine.


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