Keywords: Depth-wise Convolution, Large Kernel Convolution, Convolutional Neural Network, Hierarchical Transformer, Volumetric Segmentation, Medical Image Segmentation
TL;DR: We propose a lightweight network 3D UX-Net that simulates hierarchical transformer behavior with large kernel depthwise convolution and introduce pointwise depthwise scaling to scale features with less model parameters for volumetric segmentation.
Abstract: The recent 3D medical ViTs (e.g., SwinUNETR) achieve the state-of-the-art performances on several 3D volumetric data benchmarks, including 3D medical image segmentation. Hierarchical transformers (e.g., Swin Transformers) reintroduced several ConvNet priors and further enhanced the practical viability of adapting volumetric segmentation in 3D medical datasets. The effectiveness of hybrid approaches is largely credited to the large receptive field for non-local self-attention and the large number of model parameters. We hypothesize that volumetric ConvNets can simulate the large receptive field behavior of these learning approaches with fewer model parameters using depth-wise convolution. In this work, we propose a lightweight volumetric ConvNet, termed 3D UX-Net, which adapts the hierarchical transformer using ConvNet modules for robust volumetric segmentation. Specifically, we revisit volumetric depth-wise convolutions with large kernel (LK) size (e.g. starting from $7\times7\times7$) to enable the larger global receptive fields, inspired by Swin Transformer. We further substitute the multi-layer perceptron (MLP) in Swin Transformer blocks with pointwise depth convolutions and enhance model performances with fewer normalization and activation layers, thus reducing the number of model parameters. 3D UX-Net competes favorably with current SOTA transformers (e.g. SwinUNETR) using three challenging public datasets on volumetric brain and abdominal imaging: 1) MICCAI Challenge 2021 FLARE, 2) MICCAI Challenge 2021 FeTA, and 3) MICCAI Challenge 2022 AMOS. 3D UX-Net consistently outperforms SwinUNETR with improvement from 0.929 to 0.938 Dice (FLARE2021) and 0.867 to 0.874 Dice (Feta2021). We further evaluate the transfer learning capability of 3D UX-Net with AMOS2022 and demonstrates another improvement of $2.27\%$ Dice (from 0.880 to 0.900). The source code with our proposed model are available at https://github.com/MASILab/3DUX-Net.
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