Demonstrating the successful application of synthetic learning in spine surgery for training multi-center models with increased patient privacy. Scientific reports Schonfeld, E., Veeravagu, A. 2023; 13 (1): 12481


From real-time tumor classification to operative outcome prediction, applications of machine learning to neurosurgery are powerful. However, the translation of many of these applications are restricted by the lack of "big data" in neurosurgery. Important restrictions in patient privacy and sharing of imaging data reduce the diversity of the datasets used to train resulting models and therefore limit generalizability. Synthetic learning is a recent development in machine learning that generates synthetic data from real data and uses the synthetic data to train downstream models while preserving patient privacy. Such an approach has yet to be successfully demonstrated in the spine surgery domain. Spine radiographs were collected from the VinDR-SpineXR dataset, with 1470 labeled as abnormal and 2303 labeled as normal. A conditional generative adversarial network (GAN) was trained on the radiographs to generate a spine radiograph and normal/abnormal label. A modified conditional GAN (SpineGAN) was trained on the same task. A convolutional neural network (CNN) was trained using the real data to label abnormal radiographs. A CNN was trained to label abnormal radiographs using synthetic images from the GAN and in a separate experiment from SpineGAN. Using the real radiographs, an AUC of 0.856 was achieved in abnormality classification. Training on synthetic data generated by the standard GAN (AUC of 0.814) and synthetic data generated by our SpineGAN (AUC of 0.830) resulted in similar classifier performance. SpineGAN generated images with higher FID and lower precision scores, but with higher recall and increased performance when used for synthetic learning. The successful application of synthetic learning was demonstrated in the spine surgery domain for the classification of spine radiographs as abnormal or normal. A modified domain-relevant GAN is introduced for the generation of spine images, evidencing the importance of domain-relevant generation techniques in synthetic learning. Synthetic learning can allow neurosurgery to use larger and more diverse patient imaging sets to train more generalizable algorithms with greater patient privacy.

View details for DOI 10.1038/s41598-023-39458-y

View details for PubMedID 37528216

View details for PubMedCentralID 9099011