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This article is the author’s final published version in NeuroImage, Volume 220, June 2020, Article number 117081.

The published version is available at Copyright © Thakur et al.


Brain extraction, or skull-stripping, is an essential pre-processing step in neuro-imaging that has a direct impact on the quality of all subsequent processing and analyses steps. It is also a key requirement in multi-institutional collaborations to comply with privacy-preserving regulations. Existing automated methods, including Deep Learning (DL) based methods that have obtained state-of-the-art results in recent years, have primarily targeted brain extraction without considering pathologically-affected brains. Accordingly, they perform sub-optimally when applied on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans with apparent pathologies such as brain tumors. Furthermore, existing methods focus on using only T1-weighted MRI scans, even though multi-parametric MRI (mpMRI) scans are routinely acquired for patients with suspected brain tumors. In this study, we present a comprehensive performance evaluation of recent deep learning architectures for brain extraction, training models on mpMRI scans of pathologically-affected brains, with a particular focus on seeking a practically-applicable, low computational footprint approach, generalizable across multiple institutions, further facilitating collaborations. We identified a large retrospective multi-institutional dataset of n=3340 mpMRI brain tumor scans, with manually-inspected and approved gold-standard segmentations, acquired during standard clinical practice under varying acquisition protocols, both from private institutional data and public (TCIA) collections. To facilitate optimal utilization of rich mpMRI data, we further introduce and evaluate a novel ‘‘modality-agnostic training’’ technique that can be applied using any available modality, without need for model retraining. Our results indicate that the modality-agnostic approach1 obtains accurate results, providing a generic and practical tool for brain extraction on scans with brain tumors.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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