Recognition of peripheral blood cell images using convolutional neural networks

Andrea Acevedo, Santiago Alférez, Anna Merino, Laura Puigví, José Rodellar

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch Articlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Background and objectives: Morphological analysis is the starting point for the diagnostic approach of more than 80% of hematological diseases. However, the morphological differentiation among different types of normal and abnormal peripheral blood cells is a difficult task that requires experience and skills. Therefore, the paper proposes a system for the automatic classification of eight groups of peripheral blood cells with high accuracy by means of a transfer learning approach using convolutional neural networks. With this new approach, it is not necessary to implement image segmentation, the feature extraction becomes automatic and existing models can be fine-tuned to obtain specific classifiers. Methods: A dataset of 17,092 images of eight classes of normal peripheral blood cells was acquired using the CellaVision DM96 analyzer. All images were identified by pathologists as the ground truth to train a model to classify different cell types: neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, immature granulocytes (myelocytes, metamyelocytes and promyelocytes), erythroblasts and platelets. Two designs were performed based on two architectures of convolutional neural networks, Vgg-16 and Inceptionv3. In the first case, the networks were used as feature extractors and these features were used to train a support vector machine classifier. In the second case, the same networks were fine-tuned with our dataset to obtain two end-to-end models for classification of the eight classes of blood cells. Results: In the first case, the experimental test accuracies obtained were 86% and 90% when extracting features with Vgg-16 and Inceptionv3, respectively. On the other hand, in the fine-tuning experiment, global accuracy values of 96% and 95% were obtained using Vgg-16 and Inceptionv3, respectively. All the models were trained and tested using Keras and Tensorflow with a Nvidia Titan XP Graphics Processing Unit. Conclusions: The main contribution of this paper is a classification scheme involving a convolutional neural network trained to discriminate among eight classes of cells circulating in peripheral blood. Starting from a state-of-the-art general architecture, we have established a fine-tuning procedure to develop an end-to-end classifier trained using a dataset with over 17,000 cell images obtained from clinical practice. The performance obtained when testing the system has been truly satisfactory, the values of precision, sensitivity, and specificity being excellent. To summarize, the best overall classification accuracy has been 96.2%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105020
JournalComputer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine
StatePublished - Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics


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