The context

When a cervical disc is herniated, the spinal cord and/or nerves exiting the spine can become compressed. This can result in several symptoms for patients, such as pain that radiates from the upper arm all the way through the fingers, numbness and/or weakness in all limbs, and some cases difficulty with their gait. The most common treatment is the surgical removal of the disc tissue, called Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF).

The Zuyderland Medical Centre in Heerlen & Sittard-Geleen currently performs the ACDF surgery on their patients. It is however not yet known what ‘normal’ movement of the spine exactly is. Therefore, they would like your help to investigate the following:

The challenge

Based on cervical X-ray images, develop an algorithm that can automatically segment and track the cervical vertebrae over time, quantifying and analyzing the differences between the Range of Motion (ROM) of the normal cervical spine, and the spine after the ACDF and
prosthesis procedure.

To achieve this goal, our project will be guided by an expert from the Zuyderland Medical Centre and FruitPunch AI. The project will kick off in the second week of October and the team will consist of 15 people that will work on the project for ~12 hours/week for 3 months.

Watch the info session where Valerie Schuermans of the Zuyderland MC presents the content of the project from minute 23.46 onwards. Before minute 23.45 the video contains the info session of another AI for Health project with ETZ, which is coming up soon!

Who we’re looking for

Anyone with an interest in artificial intelligence or machine learning can apply. We expect some experience with programming languages and an interest in machine learning. A background experience with supervised learning methods, convolutional neural networks, or medical image analysis is preferred, but anyone with the right motivation and ‘proof’ of understanding of the concepts discussed in this proposal can sign up!

You can join as a contributor (12 hours per week commitment for 2 months), coach (2-4 hours per week, only for experienced ML professionals) and teacher (give one relevant ML / domain masterclass).

During the challenge we will arrange for masterclasses on relevant topics like the use of the cloud computation resources Microsoft, IBM & the HPC Lab have made available for us.

Apply for the challenge HERE!

Challenge format

The challenge will run from the 15th of September until the 17th of November, & you will collaborate with a diverse team of over 30 international data specialists and domain experts in subteams, all tackling this problem from different angles.

Some important dates:

  • Info session                                – 11th of October 17:00 CEST
  • Application deadline                  – 13th op october
  • Kickoff date & time                    – 15th of October 19:00 CEST
  • Midterm date & time                 3rd of November 19:00 CEST
  • Final presentation date & time – 28th of March 19:00 CEST

Related events & content

Apply to join the Challenge

Fill in the Google Form behind this button to become one of the 15 engineers collaborating with ETZ to develop ML models that will help doctors detect hernia in patients!

Background info

🥥 A herniated cervical disc can cause several symptoms such as numbness and/or weakness in all limbs.

🍉 The most common treatment for a herniated cervical disc is to remove the disc tissue by a surgery. This operation is called Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF).

🍊 ACDF will cause fusion of two spinal vertebrae, which will of course have consequences for the range of motion (ROM) and the sequence of segmental contributions of these vertebrae. Due to this limited movement, more load will have to be carried by the spine below and above the fusion, possibly resulting in another herniated disc in the long term.

🥝  It is thought that the secondary problems that are caused by ACDF may be prevented by placing a motion-sparing prosthesis instead of a fusion-inducing cage.

The Zuyderland Medical Centre has tried to quantify and analyze the differences between the Range of Motion (ROM) of the normal cervical spine, and the spine after the ACDF and prosthesis procedure. However, the process of segmenting the vertebrae has been done manually. Given a total of 52 frames per patient, this takes up an enormous amount of time for the experts, while not really performing an immediate expert task.

Partners in this challenge