Stain specific standardization of whole-slide histopathological images

B. Bejnordi, G. Litjens, N. Timofeeva, I. Otte-Holler, A. Homeyer, N. Karssemeijer and J. van der Laak

IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging 2016;35(2):404-415.

DOI PMID Cited by ~128

Variations in the color and intensity of hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) stained histological slides can potentially hamper the effectiveness of quantitative image analysis. This paper presents a fully automated algorithm for standardization of whole-slide histopathological images to reduce the effect of these variations. The proposed algorithm, called whole-slide image color standardizer (WSICS), utilizes color and spatial information to classify the image pixels into different stain components. The chromatic and density distributions for each of the stain components in the hue-saturation-density color model are aligned to match the corresponding distributions from a template wholeslide image (WSI). The performance of the WSICS algorithm was evaluated on two datasets. The first originated from 125 H&E stained WSIs of lymph nodes, sampled from 3 patients, and stained in 5 different laboratories on different days of the week. The second comprised 30 H&E stained WSIs of rat liver sections. The result of qualitative and quantitative evaluations using the first dataset demonstrate that the WSICS algorithm outperforms competing methods in terms of achieving color constancy. The WSICS algorithm consistently yields the smallest standard deviation and coefficient of variation of the normalized median intensity measure. Using the second dataset, we evaluated the impact of our algorithm on the performance of an already published necrosis quantification system. The performance of this system was significantly improved by utilizing the WSICS algorithm. The results of the empirical evaluations collectively demonstrate the potential contribution of the proposed standardization algorithm to improved diagnostic accuracy and consistency in computer-aided diagnosis for histopathology data.