Google Research

Predicting Anemia from Fundus Images

Nature Biomedical Engineering (2019)


Owing to the invasiveness of diagnostic tests for anaemia and the costs associated with screening for it, the condition is often undetected. Here, we show that anaemia can be detected via machine-learning algorithms trained using retinal fundus images, study participant metadata (including race or ethnicity, age, sex and blood pressure) or the combination of both data types (images and study participant metadata). In a validation dataset of 11,388 study participants from the UK Biobank, the fundusimage-only, metadata-only and combined models predicted haemoglobin concentration (in g dl–1) with mean absolute error values of 0.73 (95% confidence interval: 0.72–0.74), 0.67 (0.66–0.68) and 0.63 (0.62–0.64), respectively, and with areas under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) values of 0.74 (0.71–0.76), 0.87 (0.85–0.89) and 0.88 (0.86–0.89), respectively. For 539 study participants with self-reported diabetes, the combined model predicted haemoglobin concentration with a mean absolute error of 0.73 (0.68–0.78) and anaemia an AUC of 0.89 (0.85–0.93). Automated anaemia screening on the basis of fundus images could particularly aid patients with diabetes undergoing regular retinal imaging and for whom anaemia can increase morbidity and mortality risks.

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