Fast diagnosis and treatment of pneumothorax, a collapsed or dropped lung, is crucial to avoid fatalities. Pneumothorax is typically detected on a chest X-ray image through visual inspection by experienced radiologists. However, the detection rate is quite low due to the complexity of visual inspection for small lung collapses. Therefore, there is an urgent need for automated detection systems to assist radiologists. Although deep learning classifiers generally deliver high accuracy levels in many applications, they may not be useful in clinical practice due to the lack of high-quality and representative labeled image sets. Alternatively, searching in the archive of past cases to find matching images may serve as a “virtual second opinion” through accessing the metadata of matched evidently diagnosed cases. To use image search as a triaging or diagnosis assistant, we must first tag all chest X-ray images with expressive identifiers, i.e., deep features. Then, given a query chest X-ray image, the majority vote among the top k retrieved images can provide a more explainable output. In this study, we searched in a repository with more than 550,000 chest X-ray images. We developed the Autoencoding Thorax Net (short AutoThorax -Net) for image search in chest radiographs. Experimental results show that image search based on AutoThorax -Net features can achieve high identification performance providing a path towards real-world deployment. We achieved 92% AUC accuracy for a semi-automated search in 194,608 images (pneumothorax and normal) and 82% AUC accuracy for fully automated search in 551,383 images (normal, pneumothorax and many other chest diseases).
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