Coronary artery disease is caused primarily by vessel narrowing. Extraction of the coronary artery area from images is the preferred procedure for diagnosing coronary diseases. In this study, a U-Net-based network architecture, 3D Dense-U-Net, was adopted to perform fully automatic segmentation of the coronary artery. The network was applied to 474 coronary computed tomography (CT) angiography scans performed at Wanfang Hospital, Taiwan. Of these, 10% were used for testing. The CT scans were divided into patches of 16 original high-resolution slices. The slices were overlapped between patches to take advantage of surrounding imaging information. However, an imbalance between the foreground and background presents a challenge in smaller-object segmentation such as with coronary arteries. The network was optimized and achieved a promising result when the focal loss concept was adopted. To evaluate the accuracy of the automatic segmentation approach, the dice similarity coefficient (DSC) was calculated, and an existing clinical tool was used. The subjective ratings of three experienced radiologists were used to compare the two ratings. The results show that the proposed approach can achieve a DSC of 0.9691, which is significantly higher than other studies using a deep learning approach. In the main trunk, the results of automatic segmentation agree with those of the clinical tool; they were significantly better in some small branches. In our study, automatic segmentation tool shows high-performance detection in coronary lumen vessels, thereby providing potential power in assisting clinical diagnosis.
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