Potential Screening, Grading and Follow-Up of Diabetic Retinopathy in Primary Care Using Artificial Intelligence – How Hard Would It Be to Implement? An Ophthalmologist’s Perspective

Alexandra Cristina Rusu, Raluca Ozana Chistol, Simona Irina Damian, Klara Brînzaniuc, Karin Ursula Horvath


Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a microvascular disorder caused by the long-term effects of diabetes mellitus and among the primary causes of blindness worldwide. Early detection of DR is the key to its effective treatment and subsequent reduction of associated economic burden, but manual screening is time-consuming and of limited availability. A highly sensitive and specific automatic diagnostic tool would significantly improve screening programs and allow referring for further evaluation and treatment in an ophthalmology clinic only patients with significant lesions or with changes between two successive evaluations. Several deep learning-based automated diagnosis tools have been proposed to aid screening but their implementation with minimal costs is not accessible to physicians with no coding knowledge. We aimed to develop a fundus images classification model with no coding knowledge by using generative artificial intelligence (AI) implemented in Windows 11 operating system under subscription (Copilot Pro), a free image analysis tool (Fiji ImageJ2), and Vertex AI, a machine learning (ML) platform launched by Google in 2021. For this purpose, we selected a total of 2961 labelled cases from the APTOS 2019 database of DR fundus images. Images were batch segmented using a Java ImageJ script generated by Copilot Pro and based on the Contrast Limited Adaptive Histogram Equalization (CLAHE) algorithm. Segmented images were used to train an automated ML classification model to detect DR severity (5 classes – no DR, mild non-proliferative DR, moderate DR, severe DR, proliferative DR). The model achieved an area under the precision-recall curve of 0.889, with a precision rate of 83.8% and a recall rate of 77%. In conclusion, generative AI implemented into Windows operating system together with a free imaging processing tool and Vertex AI allow ophthalmologists with no coding knowledge to benefit from publicly available image databases (thousands of cases) to develop accurate automated diagnostic tools. Such tools have the potential to facilitate screening especially in areas with few specialists.


diabetic retinopathy, artificial intelligence, machine learning, automated diagnosis

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