It 'provides a screening decision without the need for a clinician' to interpret images.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has decided to permit marketing of a medical device that uses artificial intelligence to detect diabetic retinopathy at greater than mild levels.

The device, called IDx-DR, is a software program that uses an artificial intelligence algorithm to analyze images of the eye taken with a retinal camera called the Topcon NW400. The technology is made by IDx LLC, an Iowa-based company.

“Early detection of retinopathy is an important part of managing care for the millions of people with diabetes, yet many patients with diabetes are not adequately screened for diabetic retinopathy since about 50 percent of them do not see their eye doctor on a yearly basis,” said Dr. Malvina Eydelman, director of the Division of Ophthalmic, and Ear, Nose and Throat Devices at the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Today’s decision permits the marketing of a novel artificial intelligence technology that can be used in a primary care doctor’s office. The FDA will continue to facilitate the availability of safe and effective digital health devices that may improve patient access to needed health care.”

A doctor uploads the digital images of the patient’s retinas to a cloud server on which IDx-DR software is installed. If the images are of sufficient quality, the software provides the doctor with one of two results: (1) “more than mild diabetic retinopathy detected: refer to an eye care professional” or (2) “negative for more than mild diabetic retinopathy; rescreen in 12 months.” If a positive result is detected, patients should see an eye care provider for further diagnostic evaluation and possible treatment as soon as possible.

In a press release, the FDA stated: "IDx-DR is the first device authorized for marketing that provides a screening decision without the need for a clinician to also interpret the image or results, which makes it usable by health care providers who may not normally be involved in eye care."

The FDA evaluated data from a clinical study of retinal images obtained from 900 patients with diabetes at 10 primary care sites. The study was designed to evaluate how often IDx-DR could accurately detect patients with more than mild diabetic retinopathy.

In the study, IDx-DR was able to correctly identify the presence of more than mild diabetic retinopathy 87.4 percent of the time and was able to correctly identify those patients who did not have more than mild diabetic retinopathy 89.5 percent of the time.

IDx-DR was reviewed under the FDA’s De Novo premarket review pathway, a regulatory pathway for some low- to moderate-risk devices that are novel and for which there is no prior legally marketed device. IDx-DR was granted Breakthrough Device designation, meaning the FDA provided intensive interaction and guidance to the company on efficient device development, to expedite evidence generation and the agency’s review of the device.

Read more at FDA

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