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In Scientific reports ; h5-index 158.0

Retinal fundus images are used to detect organ damage from vascular diseases (e.g. diabetes mellitus and hypertension) and screen ocular diseases. We aimed to assess convolutional neural network (CNN) models that predict age and sex from retinal fundus images in normal participants and in participants with underlying systemic vascular-altered status. In addition, we also tried to investigate clues regarding differences between normal ageing and vascular pathologic changes using the CNN models. In this study, we developed CNN age and sex prediction models using 219,302 fundus images from normal participants without hypertension, diabetes mellitus (DM), and any smoking history. The trained models were assessed in four test-sets with 24,366 images from normal participants, 40,659 images from hypertension participants, 14,189 images from DM participants, and 113,510 images from smokers. The CNN model accurately predicted age in normal participants; the correlation between predicted age and chronologic age was R2 = 0.92, and the mean absolute error (MAE) was 3.06 years. MAEs in test-sets with hypertension (3.46 years), DM (3.55 years), and smoking (2.65 years) were similar to that of normal participants; however, R2 values were relatively low (hypertension, R2 = 0.74; DM, R2 = 0.75; smoking, R2 = 0.86). In subgroups with participants over 60 years, the MAEs increased to above 4.0 years and the accuracies declined for all test-sets. Fundus-predicted sex demonstrated acceptable accuracy (area under curve > 0.96) in all test-sets. Retinal fundus images from participants with underlying vascular-altered conditions (hypertension, DM, or smoking) indicated similar MAEs and low coefficients of determination (R2) between the predicted age and chronologic age, thus suggesting that the ageing process and pathologic vascular changes exhibit different features. Our models demonstrate the most improved performance yet and provided clues to the relationship and difference between ageing and pathologic changes from underlying systemic vascular conditions. In the process of fundus change, systemic vascular diseases are thought to have a different effect from ageing. Research in context. Evidence before this study. The human retina and optic disc continuously change with ageing, and they share physiologic or pathologic characteristics with brain and systemic vascular status. As retinal fundus images provide high-resolution in-vivo images of retinal vessels and parenchyma without any invasive procedure, it has been used to screen ocular diseases and has attracted significant attention as a predictive biomarker for cerebral and systemic vascular diseases. Recently, deep neural networks have revolutionised the field of medical image analysis including retinal fundus images and shown reliable results in predicting age, sex, and presence of cardiovascular diseases. Added value of this study. This is the first study demonstrating how a convolutional neural network (CNN) trained using retinal fundus images from normal participants measures the age of participants with underlying vascular conditions such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus (DM), or history of smoking using a large database, SBRIA, which contains 412,026 retinal fundus images from 155,449 participants. Our results indicated that the model accurately predicted age in normal participants, while correlations (coefficient of determination, R2) in test-sets with hypertension, DM, and smoking were relatively low. Additionally, a subgroup analysis indicated that mean absolute errors (MAEs) increased and accuracies declined significantly in subgroups with participants over 60 years of age in both normal participants and participants with vascular-altered conditions. These results suggest that pathologic retinal vascular changes occurring in systemic vascular diseases are different form the changes in spontaneous ageing process, and the ageing process observed in retinal fundus images may saturate at age about 60 years. Implications of all available evidence. Based on this study and previous reports, the CNN could accurately and reliably predict age and sex using retinal fundus images. The fact that retinal changes caused by ageing and systemic vascular diseases occur differently motivates one to understand the retina deeper. Deep learning-based fundus image reading may be a more useful and beneficial tool for screening and diagnosing systemic and ocular diseases after further development.

Kim Yong Dae, Noh Kyoung Jin, Byun Seong Jun, Lee Soochahn, Kim Tackeun, Sunwoo Leonard, Lee Kyong Joon, Kang Si-Hyuck, Park Kyu Hyung, Park Sang Jun