Uncertainty-guided graph attention network for parapneumonic effusion diagnosis

Jinkui Hao, Jiang Liu, Ella Pereira, Ri Liu, Jiong Zhang, Yangfan Zhang, Kun Yan, Yan Gong, Jianjun Zheng, Jingfeng Zhang, Yonghuai Liu, Yitian Zhao

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Parapneumonic effusion (PPE) is a common condition that causes death in patients hospitalized with pneumonia. Rapid distinction of complicated PPE (CPPE) from uncomplicated PPE (UPPE) in Computed Tomography (CT) scans is of great importance for the management and medical treatment of PPE. However, UPPE and CPPE display similar appearances in CT scans, and it is challenging to distinguish CPPE from UPPE via a single 2D CT image, whether attempted by a human expert, or by any of the existing disease classification approaches. 3D convolutional neural networks (CNNs) can utilize the entire 3D volume for classification: however, they typically suffer from the intrinsic defect of over-fitting. Therefore, it is important to develop a method that not only overcomes the heavy memory and computational requirements of 3D CNNs, but also leverages the 3D information. In this paper, we propose an uncertainty-guided graph attention network (UG-GAT) that can automatically extract and integrate information from all CT slices in a 3D volume for classification into UPPE, CPPE, and normal control cases. Specifically, we frame the distinction of different cases as a graph classification problem. Each individual is represented as a directed graph with a topological structure, where vertices represent the image features of slices, and edges encode the spatial relationship between them. To estimate the contribution of each slice, we first extract the slice representations with uncertainty, using a Bayesian CNN: we then make use of the uncertainty information to weight each slice during the graph prediction phase in order to enable more reliable decision-making. We construct a dataset consisting of 302 chest CT volumetric data from different subjects (99 UPPE, 99 CPPE and 104 normal control cases) in this study, and to the best of our knowledge, this is the first attempt to classify UPPE, CPPE and normal cases using a deep learning method. Extensive experiments show that our approach is lightweight in demands, and outperforms accepted state-of-the-art methods by a large margin. Code is available at https://github.com/iMED-Lab/UG-GAT.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102217
JournalMedical Image Analysis
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • CT
  • Deep Learning
  • Graph
  • Parapneumonic effusion
  • Uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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