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In IEEE journal of biomedical and health informatics

Deep learning methods for diabetic retinopathy (DR) diagnosis are usually criticized as being lack of interpretability in the diagnostic result, thus limiting their application in clinic. Simultaneous prediction of DR related features during the DR severity diagnosis is able to resolve this issue by providing supporting evidence (i.e. DR related features) for the diagnostic result (i.e. DR severity). In this study, we propose a hierarchical multi-task deep learning framework for simultaneous diagnosis of DR severity and DR related features in fundus images. A hierarchical structure is introduced to incorporate the casual relationship between DR related features and DR severity levels. In the experiments, the proposed approach was evaluated on two independent testing sets using quadratic weighted Cohen's kappa coefficient, receiver operating characteristic analysis, and precision-recall analysis. A grader study was also conducted to compare the performance of the proposed approach with those of general ophthalmologists with different levels of experience. The results demonstrate that the proposed approach could improve the performance for both DR severity diagnosis and DR related feature detection when comparing with the traditional deep-learning-based methods. It achieves performance close to general ophthalmologists with five years of experience when diagnosing DR severity levels, and general ophthalmologists with ten years of experience for referable DR detection.

Wang Juan, Bai Yujing, Xia Bin