An adversarial approach for the robust classification of pneumonia from chest radiographs
Abstract: While deep learning has shown promise in the domain of disease classification from medical images, models based on state-of-the-art convolutional neural network architectures often exhibit performance loss due to dataset shift. Models trained using data from one hospital system achieve high predictive performance when tested on data from the same hospital, but perform significantly worse when they are tested in different hospital systems. Furthermore, even within a given hospital system, deep learning models have been shown to depend on hospital- and patient-level confounders rather than meaningful pathology to make classifications. In order for these models to be safely deployed, we would like to ensure that they do not use confounding variables to make their classification, and that they will work well even when tested on images from hospitals that were not included in the training data. We attempt to address this problem in the context of pneumonia classification from chest radiographs. We propose an approach based on adversarial optimization, which allows us to learn more robust models that do not depend on confounders. Specifically, we demonstrate improved out-of-hospital generalization performance of a pneumonia classifier by training a model that is invariant to the view position of chest radiographs (anterior-posterior vs. posterior-anterior). Our approach leads to better predictive performance on external hospital data than both a standard baseline and previously proposed methods to handle confounding, and also suggests a method for identifying models that may rely on confounders.