A comparison of deep learning U-Net architectures for posterior segment OCT retinal layer segmentation

Jason Kugelman, Joseph Allman, Scott A. Read, Stephen J. Vincent, Janelle Tong, Michael Kalloniatis, Fred K. Chen, Michael J. Collins, David Alonso-Caneiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Deep learning methods have enabled a fast, accurate and automated approach for retinal layer segmentation in posterior segment OCT images. Due to the success of semantic segmentation methods adopting the U-Net, a wide range of variants and improvements have been developed and applied to OCT segmentation. Unfortunately, the relative performance of these methods is difficult to ascertain for OCT retinal layer segmentation due to a lack of comprehensive comparative studies, and a lack of proper matching between networks in previous comparisons, as well as the use of different OCT datasets between studies. In this paper, a detailed and unbiased comparison is performed between eight U-Net architecture variants across four different OCT datasets from a range of different populations, ocular pathologies, acquisition parameters, instruments and segmentation tasks. The U-Net architecture variants evaluated include some which have not been previously explored for OCT segmentation. Using the Dice coefficient to evaluate segmentation performance, minimal differences were noted between most of the tested architectures across the four datasets. Using an extra convolutional layer per pooling block gave a small improvement in segmentation performance for all architectures across all four datasets. This finding highlights the importance of careful architecture comparison (e.g. ensuring networks are matched using an equivalent number of layers) to obtain a true and unbiased performance assessment of fully semantic models. Overall, this study demonstrates that the vanilla U-Net is sufficient for OCT retinal layer segmentation and that state-of-the-art methods and other architectural changes are potentially unnecessary for this particular task, especially given the associated increased complexity and slower speed for the marginal performance gains observed. Given the U-Net model and its variants represent one of the most commonly applied image segmentation methods, the consistent findings across several datasets here are likely to translate to many other OCT datasets and studies. This will provide significant value by saving time and cost in experimentation and model development as well as reduced inference time in practice by selecting simpler models.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14888
Number of pages1
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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