Artificial intelligence using deep learning to screen for referable and vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy in Africa: a clinical validation study.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

BACKGROUND: Radical measures are required to identify and reduce blindness due to diabetes to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Therefore, we evaluated the accuracy of an artificial intelligence (AI) model using deep learning in a population-based diabetic retinopathy screening programme in Zambia, a lower-middle-income country. METHODS: We adopted an ensemble AI model consisting of a combination of two convolutional neural networks (an adapted VGGNet architecture and a residual neural network architecture) for classifying retinal colour fundus images. We trained our model on 76 370 retinal fundus images from 13 099 patients with diabetes who had participated in the Singapore Integrated Diabetic Retinopathy Program, between 2010 and 2013, which has been published previously. In this clinical validation study, we included all patients with a diagnosis of diabetes that attended a mobile screening unit in five urban centres in the Copperbelt province of Zambia from Feb 1 to June 31, 2012. In our model, referable diabetic retinopathy was defined as moderate non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy or worse, diabetic macular oedema, and ungradable images. Vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy comprised severe non-proliferative and proliferative diabetic retinopathy. We calculated the area under the curve (AUC), sensitivity, and specificity for referable diabetic retinopathy, and sensitivities of vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular oedema compared with the grading by retinal specialists. We did a multivariate analysis for systemic risk factors and referable diabetic retinopathy between AI and human graders. FINDINGS: A total of 4504 retinal fundus images from 3093 eyes of 1574 Zambians with diabetes were prospectively recruited. Referable diabetic retinopathy was found in 697 (22·5%) eyes, vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy in 171 (5·5%) eyes, and diabetic macular oedema in 249 (8·1%) eyes. The AUC of the AI system for referable diabetic retinopathy was 0·973 (95% CI 0·969-0·978), with corresponding sensitivity of 92·25% (90·10-94·12) and specificity of 89·04% (87·85-90·28). Vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy sensitivity was 99·42% (99·15-99·68) and diabetic macular oedema sensitivity was 97·19% (96·61-97·77). The AI model and human graders showed similar outcomes in referable diabetic retinopathy prevalence detection and systemic risk factors associations. Both the AI model and human graders identified longer duration of diabetes, higher level of glycated haemoglobin, and increased systolic blood pressure as risk factors associated with referable diabetic retinopathy. INTERPRETATION: An AI system shows clinically acceptable performance in detecting referable diabetic retinopathy, vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy, and diabetic macular oedema in population-based diabetic retinopathy screening. This shows the potential application and adoption of such AI technology in an under-resourced African population to reduce the incidence of preventable blindness, even when the model is trained in a different population. FUNDING: National Medical Research Council Health Service Research Grant, Large Collaborative Grant, Ministry of Health, Singapore; the SingHealth Foundation; and the Tanoto Foundation.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bellemo, V; Lim, ZW; Lim, G; Nguyen, QD; Xie, Y; Yip, MYT; Hamzah, H; Ho, J; Lee, XQ; Hsu, W; Lee, ML; Musonda, L; Chandran, M; Chipalo-Mutati, G; Muma, M; Tan, GSW; Sivaprasad, S; Menon, G; Wong, TY; Ting, DSW

Published Date

  • May 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 1 / 1

Start / End Page

  • e35 - e44

PubMed ID

  • 33323239

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2589-7500

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/S2589-7500(19)30004-4


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England