Integrating Label Uncertainty in Ultrasound Image Classification using Weighted Support Vector Machines

Jannis Hagenah*, Sascha Leymann, Floris Ernst

*Corresponding author for this work
1 Citation (Scopus)


Inference from medical image data using machine learning still suffers from the disregard of label uncertainty. Usually, medical images are labeled by multiple experts. However, the uncertainty of this training data, assessible as the unity of opinions of observers, is neglected as training is commonly performed on binary decision labels. In this work, we present a novel method to incorporate this label uncertainty into the learning problem using weighted Support Vector Machines (wSVM). The idea is to assign an uncertainty score to each data point. The score is between 0 and 1 and is calculated based on the unity of opinions of all observers, where u = 1 if all observers have the same opinion and u = 0 if the observers opinions are exactly 50/50, with linear interpolation in between. This score is integrated in the Support Vector Machine (SVM) optimization as a weighting of errors made for the corresponding data point. For evaluation, we asked 15 observers to label 48 2D ultrasound images of aortic roots addressing whether the images show a healthy or a pathologically dilated anatomy, where the ground truth was known. As the observers were not trained experts, a high diversity of opinions was present in the data set. We performed image classification using both approaches, i.e. classical SVM and wSVM with integrated uncertainty weighting, utilizing 10-fold Cross Validation, respectively (linear kernel, C = 7). By incorporating the observer uncertainty, the classification accuracy could be improved by 3.1 percentage points (SVM: 83.5%, wSVM: 86.6%). This indicates that integrating information on the observers' unity of opinions increases the generalization performance of the classifier and that uncertainty weighted wSVM could present a promising method for machine learning in the medical domain.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Directions in Biomedical Engineering
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)285-287
Number of pages3
Publication statusPublished - 01.09.2019


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