Nerve segmentation with deep learning from label-free endoscopic images obtained using coherent anti-stokes Raman scattering


Semantic segmentation with deep learning to extract nerves from label-free endoscopic images obtained using coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) for nerve-sparing surgery is described. We developed a CARS rigid endoscope in order to identify the exact location of peripheral nerves in surgery. Myelinated nerves are visualized with a CARS lipid signal in a label-free manner. Because the lipid distribution includes other tissues as well as nerves, nerve segmentation is required to achieve nerve-sparing surgery. We propose using U-Net with a VGG16 encoder as a deep learning model and pre-training with fluorescence images, which visualize the lipid distribution similar to CARS images, before fine-tuning with a small dataset of CARS endoscopy images. For nerve segmentation, we used 24 CARS and 1,818 fluorescence nerve images of three rabbit prostates. We achieved label-free nerve segmentation with a mean accuracy of 0.962 and an F1 value of 0.860. Pre-training on fluorescence images significantly improved the performance of nerve segmentation in terms of the mean accuracy and F1 value (p<0.05). Nerve segmentation of label-free endoscopic images will allow for safer endoscopic surgery, while reducing dysfunction and improving prognosis after surgery.