3D TransUNet: Advancing Medical Image Segmentation through Vision Transformers
Jieneng Chen, Jieru Mei, Xianhang Li, Yongyi Lu, Qihang Yu, Qingyue Wei, Xiangde Luo, Yutong Xie, Ehsan Adeli, Yan Wang, Matthew Lungren, Lei Xing, Le Lu, Alan Yuille, Yuyin Zhou
Medical image segmentation plays a crucial role in advancing healthcare systems for disease diagnosis and treatment planning. The u-shaped architecture, popularly known as U-Net, has proven highly successful for various medical image segmentation tasks. However, U-Net’s convolution-based operations inherently limit its ability to model long-range dependencies effectively. To address these limitations, researchers have turned to Transformers, renowned for their global self-attention mechanisms, as alternative architectures. One popular network is our previous TransUNet, which leverages Transformers’ self-attention to complement U-Net’s localized information with the global context. In this paper, we extend the 2D TransUNet architecture to a 3D network by building upon the state-of-the-art nnU-Net architecture, and fully exploring Transformers’ potential in both the encoder and decoder design. We introduce two key components: 1) A Transformer encoder that tokenizes image patches from a convolution neural network (CNN) feature map, enabling the extraction of global contexts, and 2) A Transformer decoder that adaptively refines candidate regions by utilizing cross-attention between candidate proposals and U-Net features. Our investigations reveal that different medical tasks benefit from distinct architectural designs. The Transformer encoder excels in multi-organ segmentation, where the relationship among organs is crucial. On the other hand, the Transformer decoder proves more beneficial for dealing with small and challenging segmented targets such as tumor segmentation. Extensive experiments showcase the significant potential of integrating a Transformer-based encoder and decoder into the u-shaped medical image segmentation architecture. TransUNet outperforms competitors in various medical applications, including multiorgan segmentation, pancreatic tumor segmentation, and hepatic vessel segmentation. It notably surpasses the top solution in the BrasTS2021 challenge. Code and models are available at https://github.com/Beckschen/ 3D-TransUNet.