Advanced AI technology used to detect retinal diseases - PACE


An international group of researchers, including Monash University, has successfully applied AI technology to real-world retinal imagery to detect diseases more accurately and on a larger scale.

Retinal examinations can detect a number of diseases that affect the eye. Fundus photography is a process of taking photographs of the interior of the eye through the pupil and is a way to screen and monitor such retinal diseases.

The introduction of artificial intelligence technology to fundus photography has improved the platform and enabled it to detect and monitor retinal diseases on a large scale.

The Comprehensive AI Retinal Expert (CARE) system was developed by researchers from Monash University, Sun Yat-sen University, Beijing Eaglevision Technology (Airdoc), University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Beijing Tongren Eye Centre and Capital Medical University.

The researchers trained a clinically applicable deep-learning system for fundus diseases using data derived from real world case studies, then externally tested the model using fundus photographs collected from clinical settings in China.

“The CARE system was trained to identify the 14 most common retinal abnormalities using 207,228 colour fundus photographs derived from 16 clinical settings across Asia, Africa, North America and Europe, with different disease distributions,” Monash Data Futures Institute and Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering associate professor, Zongyuan Ge, said.

“CARE was internally validated using 21,867 photographs and externally tested using 18,136 photographs prospectively collected from 35 real-world settings across China, including eight tertiary hospitals, six community hospitals and 21 physical examination centres.”

The researchers expect that CARE will be adopted in medical settings across China and later in the Asia Pacific region.

CARE’s performance was further compared with that of 16 ophthalmologists and tested using datasets with non-Chinese ethnicities and previously unused camera types.

“We also found that the performance of the CARE system was similar to that of professional ophthalmologists and the system retained strong identification performance when tested using the non-Chinese datasets,” Ge said.

“These findings indicate that the system is accurate when compared to the outcomes of a professional and could allow for more testing to be carried out on a larger scale.”

The research will also build out a database of screening images from real-world environments that can be rolled out in clinical settings to better diagnose retinal diseases.

“This research is a step in the right direction for medical and artificial intelligence research,” University of Wisconsin-Madison Imaging Diagnostic Centre director Amitha Domalpally said.

“I hope that through this work, we can continue to see technological advancements in this space.”

The research paper was published in The Lancet Digital Health. To view the research paper, visit