Introduction: The Agatston score is a well-established metric of cardiovascular disease related to clinical outcomes. It is computed from CT scans by a) measuring the volume and intensity of the atherosclerotic plaques and b) aggregating such information in an index.
Objective: To generate a convolutional neural network that inputs a non-contrast chest CT scan and outputs the Agatston score associated with it directly, without a prior segmentation of Coronary Artery Calcifications (CAC).
Materials and methods: We use a database of 5973 non-contrast non-ECG gated chest CT scans where the Agatston score has been manually computed. The heart of each scan is cropped automatically using an object detector. The database is split in 4973 cases for training and 1000 for testing. We train a 3D deep convolutional neural network to regress the Agatston score directly from the extracted hearts.
Results: The proposed method yields a Pearson correlation coefficient of = 0.93; ≤ 0.0001 against manual reference standard in the 1000 test cases. It further stratifies correctly 72.6% of the cases with respect to standard risk groups. This compares to more complex state-of-the-art methods based on prior segmentations of the CACs, which achieve = 0.94 in ECG-gated pulmonary CT.
Conclusions: A convolutional neural network can regress the Agatston score from the image of the heart directly, without a prior segmentation of the CACs. This is a new and simpler paradigm in the Agatston score computation that yields similar results to the state-of-the-art literature.