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AI Can Identify Heart Disease From Eye Scan, Researchers Find

Changes to the blood vessels in the retina are indicators of broader vascular disease.




Scientists have developed an artificial intelligence system that can analyze eye scans taken during a routine visit to an eyecare provider and identify patients at high risk of a heart attack.

Doctors have recognized that changes to the blood vessels in the retina are indicators of broader vascular disease.

In the research, led by the University of Leeds, deep learning techniques were used to train an AI system to automatically read retinal scans and identify those people who, over the following year, were likely to have a heart attack.

Deep learning is a complex series of algorithms that enable computers to identify patterns in data and to make predictions, the university explains on its website.

Writing in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence, the researchers report that the AI system had an accuracy of between 70 percent and 80 percent. They said it could be used as a second referral mechanism for in-depth cardiovascular examination.

Professor Alex Frangi, who supervised the research, said the technique “opens up the possibility of revolutionizing the screening of cardiac disease.”


“Retinal scans are comparatively cheap and routinely used in many optician practices,” he said, “As a result of automated screening, patients who are at high risk of becoming ill could be referred for specialist cardiac services.”

The research paper is titled “Predicting Infarction through your retinal scans and minimal personal Information.”


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