J Korean Med Sci.  2021 Feb;36(5):e46. 10.3346/jkms.2021.36.e46.

Quantitative Assessment of Chest CT Patterns in COVID-19 and Bacterial Pneumonia Patients: a Deep Learning Perspective

  • 1Robotics Engineering, Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST), Daegu, Korea
  • 2Division of Pulmonology and Allergy, Department of Internal Medicine, Regional Center for Respiratory Diseases, Yeungnam University Medical Center, College of Medicine, Yeungnam University, Daegu, Korea
  • 3Department of Radiology, Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul, Korea


It is difficult to distinguish subtle differences shown in computed tomography (CT) images of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and bacterial pneumonia patients, which often leads to an inaccurate diagnosis. It is desirable to design and evaluate interpretable feature extraction techniques to describe the patient's condition.
This is a retrospective cohort study of 170 confirmed patients with COVID-19 or bacterial pneumonia acquired at Yeungnam University Hospital in Daegu, Korea. The lung and lesion regions were segmented to crop the lesion into 2D patches to train a classifier model that could differentiate between COVID-19 and bacterial pneumonia. The K-means algorithm was used to cluster deep features extracted by the trained model into 20 groups.Each lesion patch cluster was described by a characteristic imaging term for comparison.For each CT image containing multiple lesions, a histogram of lesion types was constructed using the cluster information. Finally, a Support Vector Machine classifier was trained with the histogram and radiomics features to distinguish diseases and severity.
The 20 clusters constructed from 170 patients were reviewed based on common radiographic appearance types. Two clusters showed typical findings of COVID-19, with two other clusters showing typical findings related to bacterial pneumonia. Notably, there is one cluster that showed bilateral diffuse ground-glass opacities (GGOs) in the central and peripheral lungs and was considered to be a key factor for severity classification. The proposed method achieved an accuracy of 91.2% for classifying COVID-19 and bacterial pneumonia patients with 95% reported for severity classification. The CT quantitative parameters represented by the values of cluster 8 were correlated with existing laboratory data and clinical parameters.
Deep chest CT analysis with constructed lesion clusters revealed well-known COVID-19 CT manifestations comparable to manual CT analysis. The constructed histogram features improved accuracy for both diseases and severity classification, and showed correlations with laboratory data and clinical parameters. The constructed histogram features can provide guidance for improved analysis and treatment of COVID-19.


COVID-19; Pneumonia; Bacterial; Computed Tomography; Deep Learning; Cluster Analysis
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