Google Research

Retinal fundus photographs capture hemoglobin loss after blood donation

medRxiv (2022)


Recently it was shown that blood hemoglobin concentration could be predicted from retinal fundus photographs by deep learning models. However, it is unclear whether the models were quantifying current blood hemoglobin level, or estimating based on subjects' pretest probability of having anemia. Here, we conducted an observational study with 14 volunteers who donated blood at an on site blood drive held by the local blood center (ie, at which time approximately 10% of their blood was removed). When the deep learning model was applied to retinal fundus photographs taken before and after blood donation, it detected a decrease in blood hemoglobin concentration within each subject at 2-3 days after donation, suggesting that the model was quantifying subacute hemoglobin changes instead of predicting subjects' risk. Additional randomized or controlled studies can further validate this finding.

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