The results from a study looking at a pioneering system, that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect diabetic retinopathy, have been published.
The IDx-DR is a medical device that uses a robot camera and AI to take a good quality image and to diagnose diabetic retinopathy. The system therefore can take and interpret the photos without needing human supervision.
Diabetic retinopathy is a form of eye damage, and a relatively common complication of diabetes, that can affect people if blood sugar levels have been high over a period of years. Retinopathy develops over many years and spotting the signs early can help people to take action to improve their diabetes control and limit the progression of the damage.
The technology was approved for use in April by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after the research showed how effective it was.
Dr Michael Abràmoff, the Robert C. Watzke Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences with the University of Iowa and who led the study, said: “The AI system’s primary role is to identify those people with diabetes who are likely to have diabetic retinopathy that requires further evaluation by an eye-care provider.
The trial involved 900 people with diabetes who had no previous diabetic retinopathy history. Images of their eyes were take, and the AI device made accurate diagnoses within 20 seconds.
The same participants also had their eyes checked using different equipment that does not rely on AI, carried out at the Fundus Photograph Reading Center (FPRC). The non-AI equipment is operated by retinal photographers and is currently deemed the gold standard of diagnosis.
Complete diagnostic data was accomplished by both systems in 819 of the volunteers. The FPRC readers identified 198 people who were deemed to have more than mild diabetic retinopathy and the AI system correctly identified 173 of the 198 participants with the condition.
Annual eye screening checks are available for people with diabetes in the UK to attend. If you have not had a retinal screening check in the last year, check with your health team and if you are due a check, your health team will be happy to get this booked in for you.
The outcomes of the trial of the AI system have been published in the npj Digital Medicine journal.

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