Deep-learning based fast and accurate 3D CT deformable image registration in lung cancer

Yuzhen Ding, Hongying Feng, Yunze Yang, Jason Holmes, Zhengliang Liu, David Liu, William W. Wong, Nathan Y. Yu, Terence T. Sio, Steven E. Schild, Baoxin Li, Wei Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Deformable Image Registration (DIR) is an essential technique required in many applications of radiation oncology. However, conventional DIR approaches typically take several minutes to register one pair of 3D CT images and the resulting deformable vector fields (DVFs) are only specific to the pair of images used, making it less appealing for clinical application. Purpose: A deep-learning-based DIR method using CT images is proposed for lung cancer patients to address the common drawbacks of the conventional DIR approaches and in turn can accelerate the speed of related applications, such as contour propagation, dose deformation, adaptive radiotherapy (ART), etc. Methods: A deep neural network based on VoxelMorph was developed to generate DVFs using CT images collected from 114 lung cancer patients. Two models were trained with the weighted mean absolute error (wMAE) loss and structural similarity index matrix (SSIM) loss (optional) (i.e., the MAE model and the M+S model). In total, 192 pairs of initial CT (iCT) and verification CT (vCT) were included as a training dataset and the other independent 10 pairs of CTs were included as a testing dataset. The vCTs usually were taken 2 weeks after the iCTs. The synthetic CTs (sCTs) were generated by warping the vCTs according to the DVFs generated by the pre-trained model. The image quality of the synthetic CTs was evaluated by measuring the similarity between the iCTs and the sCTs generated by the proposed methods and the conventional DIR approaches, respectively. Per-voxel absolute CT-number-difference volume histogram (CDVH) and MAE were used as the evaluation metrics. The time to generate the sCTs was also recorded and compared quantitatively. Contours were propagated using the derived DVFs and evaluated with SSIM. Forward dose calculations were done on the sCTs and the corresponding iCTs. Dose volume histograms (DVHs) were generated based on dose distributions on both iCTs and sCTs generated by two models, respectively. The clinically relevant DVH indices were derived for comparison. The resulted dose distributions were also compared using 3D Gamma analysis with thresholds of 3 mm/3%/10% and 2 mm/2%/10%, respectively. Results: The two models (wMAE and M+S) achieved a speed of 263.7±163 / 265.8±190 ms and a MAE of 13.15±3.8 / 17.52±5.8 HU for the testing dataset, respectively. The average SSIM scores of 0.987±0.006 and 0.988±0.004 were achieved by the two proposed models, respectively. For both models, CDVH of a typical patient showed that less than 5% of the voxels had a per-voxel absolute CT-number-difference larger than 55 HU. The dose distribution calculated based on a typical sCT showed differences of ≤2cGy[RBE] for clinical target volume (CTV) D95 and D5, within ±0.06% for total lung V5, ≤1.5cGy[RBE] for heart and esophagus Dmean, and ≤6cGy[RBE] for cord Dmax compared to the dose distribution calculated based on the iCT. The good average 3D Gamma passing rates (> 96% for 3 mm/3%/10% and > 94% for 2 mm/2%/10%, respectively) were also observed. Conclusion: A deep neural network-based DIR approach was proposed and has been shown to be reasonably accurate and efficient to register the initial CTs and verification CTs in lung cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6864-6880
Number of pages17
JournalMedical physics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2023


  • 3D lung CT images
  • deep neural networks
  • deformable image registration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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