UC San Diego researchers apply AI to diagnose eye diseases: 4 things to know

In an effort to accelerate early intervention, an international team of researchers developed an artificial intelligence tool to screen patients for various eye diseases.

Here are four things to know about the AI tool.

1. The researchers — led by scientists at Shiley Eye Institute at UC San Diego Health and UC San Diego School of Medicine — used a neural network to review 200,000-plus eye scans, in an effort to teach an AI tool to identify macular degeneration and diabetic macular edema, two common causes of irreversible blindness.

2. Following the use of the neural network, the researchers applied a machine learning technique called "transfer learning," which requires a smaller dataset than traditional AI methods to reach conclusions.

"For example, an AI neural network optimized to recognize the discrete anatomical structures of the eye, such as the retina, cornea or optic nerve, can more quickly and efficiently identify and evaluate them when examining images of a whole eye," according to a Feb. 22 UC San Diego Health statement.

3. Within 30 seconds after analyzing an eye scan, the AI tool would make a diagnosis and generate a decision on whether or not a patient should be referred for treatment. The researchers found the AI tool's diagnoses matched diagnoses from five ophthalmologists with 95 percent accuracy.

4. The study authors suggested a simplified version of the AI tool would be particularly useful in parts of the world where medical resources, including specialists, are lacking.

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