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In International journal of endocrinology ; h5-index 44.0

Background : Ultrasonography (US) is the most common method of identifying thyroid nodules, but US images require an experienced surgeon for identification. Many artificial intelligence (AI) techniques such as computer-aided diagnostic systems (CAD), deep learning (DL), and machine learning (ML) have been used to assist in the diagnosis of thyroid nodules, but whether AI techniques can improve the diagnostic accuracy of thyroid nodules still needs to be explored.

Objective : To clarify the accuracy of AI-based thyroid nodule US images for differentiating benign and malignant thyroid nodules.

Methods : A search strategy of "subject terms + key words" was used to search PubMed, Cochrane Library, Embase, Web of Science, China Biology Medicine (CBM), and China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) for studies on AI-assisted diagnosis of thyroid nodules based on US images. The summarized receiver operating characteristic (SROC) curve and the pooled sensitivity and specificity were used to assess the performance of the diagnostic tests. The quality assessment of diagnostics accuracy studies-2 (QUADAS-2) tool was used to assess the methodological quality of the included studies. The Review Manager 5.3 and Stata 15 were used to process the data. Subgroup analysis was based on the integrity of data collection.

Results : A total of 25 studies with 17,429 US images of thyroid nodules were included. AI-assisted diagnostic techniques had better diagnostic efficacy in the diagnosis of benign and malignant thyroid nodules: sensitivity 0.88 (95% CI: (0.85-0.90)), specificity 0.81 (95% CI: 0.74-0.86), diagnostic odds ratio (DOR) 30 (95% CI: 19-46). The SROC curve indicated that the area under the curve (AUC) was 0.92 (95% CI: 0.89-0.94). Threshold effect analysis showed a Spearman correlation coefficient: 0.17 < 0.5, suggesting no threshold effect for the included studies. After a meta-regression analysis of 4 different subgroups, the results showed a statistically significant effect of mean age ≥50 years on heterogeneity. Compared with studies with an average age of ≥50 years, AI-assisted diagnostic techniques had higher diagnostic performance in studies with an average age of <50 years (0.89 (95% CI: 0.87-0.92) vs. 0.80 (95% CI: 0.73-0.88)), (0.83 (95% CI: 0.77-0.88) vs. 0.73 (95% CI: 0.60-0.87)).

Conclusions : AI-assisted diagnostic techniques had good diagnostic efficacy for thyroid nodules. For the diagnosis of <50 year olds, AI-assisted diagnostic technology was more effective in diagnosis.

Xue Yu, Zhou Ying, Wang Tingrui, Chen Huijuan, Wu Lingling, Ling Huayun, Wang Hong, Qiu Lijuan, Ye Dongqing, Wang Bin