ECSU-Net: An embedded clustering sliced U-Net coupled with fusing strategy for efficient intervertebral disc segmentation and classification

Anam Nazir, Muhammad Nadeem Cheema, Bin Sheng, Ping Li, Huating Li, Guangtao Xue, Jing Qin, Jinman Kim, David Dagan Feng

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Automatic vertebra segmentation from computed tomography (CT) image is the very first and a decisive stage in vertebra analysis for computer-based spinal diagnosis and therapy support system. However, automatic segmentation of vertebra remains challenging due to several reasons, including anatomic complexity of spine, unclear boundaries of the vertebrae associated with spongy and soft bones. Based on 2D U-Net, we have proposed an Embedded Clustering Sliced U-Net (ECSU-Net). ECSU-Net comprises of three modules named segmentation, intervertebral disc extraction (IDE) and fusion. The segmentation module follows an instance embedding clustering approach, where our three sliced sub-nets use axis of CT images to generate a coarse 2D segmentation along with embedding space with the same size of the input slices. Our IDE module is designed to classify vertebra and find the inter-space between two slices of segmented spine. Our fusion module takes the coarse segmentation (2D) and outputs the refined 3D results of vertebra. A novel adaptive discriminative loss (ADL) function is introduced to train the embedding space for clustering. In the fusion strategy, three modules are integrated via a learnable weight control component, which adaptively sets their contribution. We have evaluated classical and deep learning methods on Spineweb dataset-2. ECSU-Net has provided comparable performance to previous neural network based algorithms achieving the best segmentation dice score of 95.60% and classification accuracy of 96.20%, while taking less time and computation resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)880-893
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Image Processing
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • 2-dimensional U-Net
  • computed tomography (CT) images
  • computer-based therapy support system
  • image fusion
  • vertebra classification
  • Vertebra segmentation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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