Weighing features of lung and heart regions for thoracic disease classification

Jiansheng Fang, Yanwu Xu, Yitian Zhao, Yuguang Yan, Junling Liu, Jiang Liu

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Chest X-rays are the most commonly available and affordable radiological examination for screening thoracic diseases. According to the domain knowledge of screening chest X-rays, the pathological information usually lay on the lung and heart regions. However, it is costly to acquire region-level annotation in practice, and model training mainly relies on image-level class labels in a weakly supervised manner, which is highly challenging for computer-aided chest X-ray screening. To address this issue, some methods have been proposed recently to identify local regions containing pathological information, which is vital for thoracic disease classification. Inspired by this, we propose a novel deep learning framework to explore discriminative information from lung and heart regions. Result: We design a feature extractor equipped with a multi-scale attention module to learn global attention maps from global images. To exploit disease-specific cues effectively, we locate lung and heart regions containing pathological information by a well-trained pixel-wise segmentation model to generate binarization masks. By introducing element-wise logical AND operator on the learned global attention maps and the binarization masks, we obtain local attention maps in which pixels are are 1 for lung and heart region and 0 for other regions. By zeroing features of non-lung and heart regions in attention maps, we can effectively exploit their disease-specific cues in lung and heart regions. Compared to existing methods fusing global and local features, we adopt feature weighting to avoid weakening visual cues unique to lung and heart regions. Our method with pixel-wise segmentation can help overcome the deviation of locating local regions. Evaluated by the benchmark split on the publicly available chest X-ray14 dataset, the comprehensive experiments show that our method achieves superior performance compared to the state-of-the-art methods. Conclusion: We propose a novel deep framework for the multi-label classification of thoracic diseases in chest X-ray images. The proposed network aims to effectively exploit pathological regions containing the main cues for chest X-ray screening. Our proposed network has been used in clinic screening to assist the radiologists. Chest X-ray accounts for a significant proportion of radiological examinations. It is valuable to explore more methods for improving performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number99
JournalBMC Medical Imaging
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Chest X-rays
  • Lung and heart regions
  • Multi-scale attention
  • Pixel-wise segmentation
  • Thoracic diseases classification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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