MDA-Unet: A Multi-Scale Dilated Attention U-Net for Medical Image Segmentation

Alyaa Amer* (Corresponding Author), Tryphon Lambrou, Xujiong Ye* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


The advanced development of deep learning methods has recently made significant improvements in medical image segmentation. Encoder–decoder networks, such as U-Net, have addressed some of the challenges in medical image segmentation with an outstanding performance, which has promoted them to be the most dominating deep learning architecture in this domain. Despite their outstanding performance, we argue that they still lack some aspects. First, there is incompatibility in U-Net’s skip connection between the encoder and decoder features due to the semantic gap between low-processed encoder features and highly processed decoder features, which adversely affects the final prediction. Second, it lacks capturing multi-scale context information and ignores the contribution of all semantic information through the segmentation process. Therefore, we propose a model named MDA-Unet, a novel multi-scale deep learning segmentation model. MDA-Unet improves upon U-Net and enhances its performance in segmenting medical images with variability in the shape and size of the region of interest. The model is integrated with a multi-scale spatial attention module, where spatial attention maps are derived from a hybrid hierarchical dilated convolution module that captures multi-scale context information. To ease the training process and reduce the gradient vanishing problem, residual blocks are deployed instead of the basic U-net blocks. Through a channel attention mechanism, the high-level decoder features are used to guide the low-level encoder features to promote the selection of meaningful context information, thus ensuring effective fusion. We evaluated our model on 2 different datasets: a lung dataset of 2628 axial CT images and an echocardiographic dataset of 2000 images, each with its own challenges. Our model has achieved a significant gain in performance with a slight increase in the number of trainable parameters in comparison with the basic U-Net model, providing a dice score of 98.3% on the lung dataset and 96.7% on the echocardiographic dataset, where the basic U-Net has achieved 94.2% on the lung dataset and 93.9% on the echocardiographic dataset.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3676
Number of pages18
JournalApplied Sciences
Issue number7
Early online date6 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2022


  • deep learning
  • U-Net
  • medical images
  • segmentation
  • computed tomography
  • echocardiography


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