Automated machine learning for predicting diabetic retinopathy progression from ultra-widefield retinal images

Paolo S. Silva*, Dean Zhang, Cris Martin P. Jacoba, Ward Fickweiler, Drew Lewis, Jeremy Leitmeyer, Katie Curran, Recivall P. Salongcay, Duy Doan, Mohamed Ashraf, Jerry D. Cavallerano, Jennifer K. Sun, Tunde Peto, Lloyd Paul Aiello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Importance Machine learning (ML) algorithms have the potential to identify eyes with early diabetic retinopathy (DR) at increased risk for disease progression.

Objective To create and validate automated ML models (autoML) for DR progression from ultra-widefield (UWF) retinal images.

Design, Setting and Participants Deidentified UWF images with mild or moderate nonproliferative DR (NPDR) with 3 years of longitudinal follow-up retinal imaging or evidence of progression within 3 years were used to develop automated ML models for predicting DR progression in UWF images. All images were collected from a tertiary diabetes-specific medical center retinal image dataset. Data were collected from July to September 2022.

Exposure Automated ML models were generated from baseline on-axis 200° UWF retinal images. Baseline retinal images were labeled for progression based on centralized reading center evaluation of baseline and follow-up images according to the clinical Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study severity scale. Images for model development were split 8-1-1 for training, optimization, and testing to detect 1 or more steps of DR progression. Validation was performed using a 328-image set from the same patient population not used in model development.

Main Outcomes and Measures Area under the precision-recall curve (AUPRC), sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy.

Results A total of 1179 deidentified UWF images with mild (380 [32.2%]) or moderate (799 [67.8%]) NPDR were included. DR progression was present in half of the training set (590 of 1179 [50.0%]). The model’s AUPRC was 0.717 for baseline mild NPDR and 0.863 for moderate NPDR. On the validation set for eyes with mild NPDR, sensitivity was 0.72 (95% CI, 0.57-0.83), specificity was 0.63 (95% CI, 0.57-0.69), prevalence was 0.15 (95% CI, 0.12-0.20), and accuracy was 64.3%; for eyes with moderate NPDR, sensitivity was 0.80 (95% CI, 0.70-0.87), specificity was 0.72 (95% CI, 0.66-0.76), prevalence was 0.22 (95% CI, 0.19-0.27), and accuracy was 73.8%. In the validation set, 6 of 8 eyes (75%) with mild NPDR and 35 of 41 eyes (85%) with moderate NPDR progressed 2 steps or more were identified. All 4 eyes with mild NPDR that progressed within 6 months and 1 year were identified, and 8 of 9 (89%) and 17 of 20 (85%) with moderate NPDR that progressed within 6 months and 1 year, respectively, were identified.

Conclusions and Relevance This study demonstrates the accuracy and feasibility of automated ML models for identifying DR progression developed using UWF images, especially for prediction of 2-step or greater DR progression within 1 year. Potentially, the use of ML algorithms may refine the risk of disease progression and identify those at highest short-term risk, thus reducing costs and improving vision-related outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-177
Number of pages7
JournalJAMA Ophthalmology
Issue number3
Early online date08 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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