Rethinking Semi-Supervised Medical Image Segmentation: A Variance-Reduction Perspective

by   Chenyu You, et al.

For medical image segmentation, contrastive learning is the dominant practice to improve the quality of visual representations by contrasting semantically similar and dissimilar pairs of samples. This is enabled by the observation that without accessing ground truth label, negative examples with truly dissimilar anatomical features, if sampled, can significantly improve the performance. In reality, however, these samples may come from similar anatomical features and the models may struggle to distinguish the minority tail-class samples, making the tail classes more prone to misclassification, both of which typically lead to model collapse. In this paper, we propose ARCO, a semi-supervised contrastive learning (CL) framework with stratified group sampling theory in medical image segmentation. In particular, we first propose building ARCO through the concept of variance-reduced estimation, and show that certain variance-reduction techniques are particularly beneficial in medical image segmentation tasks with extremely limited labels. Furthermore, we theoretically prove these sampling techniques are universal in variance reduction. Finally, we experimentally validate our approaches on three benchmark datasets with different label settings, and our methods consistently outperform state-of-the-art semi- and fully-supervised methods. Additionally, we augment the CL frameworks with these sampling techniques and demonstrate significant gains over previous methods. We believe our work is an important step towards semi-supervised medical image segmentation by quantifying the limitation of current self-supervision objectives for accomplishing medical image analysis tasks.


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