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Evaluation of an AI-Based Detection Software for Acute Findings in Abdominal Computed Tomography Scans

Toward an Automated Work List Prioritization of Routine CT Examinations

Winkel, David J., MD; Heye, Tobias, MD; Weikert, Thomas J., MD; Boll, Daniel T., MD; Stieltjes, Bram, MD, PhD

doi: 10.1097/RLI.0000000000000509
Technical Notes

Objective The aim of this study was to test the diagnostic performance of a deep learning-based triage system for the detection of acute findings in abdominal computed tomography (CT) examinations.

Materials and Methods Using a RIS/PACS (Radiology Information System/Picture Archiving and Communication System) search engine, we obtained 100 consecutive abdominal CTs with at least one of the following findings: free-gas, free-fluid, or fat-stranding and 100 control cases with absence of these findings. The CT data were analyzed using a convolutional neural network algorithm previously trained for detection of these findings on an independent sample. The validation of the results was performed on a Web-based feedback system by a radiologist with 1 year of experience in abdominal imaging without prior knowledge of image findings through both visual confirmation and comparison with the clinically approved, written report as the standard of reference. All cases were included in the final analysis, except those in which the whole dataset could not be processed by the detection software. Measures of diagnostic accuracy were then calculated.

Results A total of 194 cases were included in the analysis, 6 excluded because of technical problems during the extraction of the DICOM datasets from the local PACS. Overall, the algorithm achieved a 93% sensitivity (91/98, 7 false-negative) and 97% specificity (93/96, 3 false-positive) in the detection of acute abdominal findings. Intra-abdominal free gas was detected with a 92% sensitivity (54/59) and 93% specificity (39/42), free fluid with a 85% sensitivity (68/80) and 95% specificity (20/21), and fat stranding with a 81% sensitivity (42/50) and 98% specificity (48/49). False-positive results were due to streak artifacts, partial volume effects, and a misidentification of a diverticulum (each n = 1).

Conclusions The algorithm's autonomous detection of acute pathological abdominal findings demonstrated a high diagnostic performance, enabling guidance of the radiology workflow toward prioritization of abdominal CT examinations with acute conditions.

From the Department of Radiology, University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland.

Received for publication July 9, 2018; and accepted for publication, after revision, July 27, 2018.

Conflict of interest and sources of funding: none declared.

Correspondence to: Thomas J. Weikert, MD, University Hospital Basel, University of Basel, Clinic of Radiology & Nuclear Medicine, Petersgraben 4, 4031 Basel, Switzerland. E-mail:

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