A recent study conducted by the eye care nonprofit Orbis International revealed that artificial intelligence (AI) effectively detects diabetic retinopathy, a common complication of diabetes with the potential to cause blindness, in children and young adults.
Published in Clinical Medicine Insights: Endocrinology and Diabetes, the peer-reviewed study demonstrates that Cybersight AI, a component of Orbis's telemedicine and e-learning platform, serves as a valuable tool to assist medical staff. This is particularly beneficial in cases where healthcare professionals are often overburdened with patient caseloads, especially in low-resource settings with limited numbers of trained health care professionals.
"To date, AI has been studied to detect diabetic retinopathy in adults," said Nicolas Jaccard, Principal Architect, Telehealth & Program Technology, Orbis International. "These studies have shown that AI is highly effective and accurate, but almost none have been tested on children. Adults and children with diabetes both require regular eye screenings to detect diabetic retinopathy and keep the condition from progressing, which can lead to irreversible vision loss or blindness. However, trained eye care professionals cannot meet the growing demand for diabetic retinopathy screening as the prevalence of diabetes continues to rise. A tool like Cybersight AI can help to meet this burden, especially for children and young adults who have been shown are less likely to seek out routine eye screenings."
The research involved the screening of over 1,300 children and young adults aged 3 to 26 who were diagnosed with diabetes. Conducted at the Dhaka BIRDEM-2 hospital in Bangladesh, each patient had images of their retinas (the back of the eye) taken on a fundus camera at the hospital. These images were then assessed by both Cybersight AI and a fully qualified optometrist certified to grade for diabetic retinopathy. The results demonstrated that Cybersight AI accurately identified signs of diabetic retinopathy in children and young adults, even though the algorithms had originally been trained on adults.
"Diabetes is on the rise for young people in Bangladesh," said Dr. Munir Ahmed, Country Director, Orbis Bangladesh. "Type II diabetes nearly tripled in people under 20 years of age in just seven years, from 2011 to 2018. Adolescents with type II diabetes have a higher risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, compared to adults. This is very concerning in Bangladesh where children and young adults do not have access to the regular diabetic retinopathy screening required to manage the disease and prevent future vision loss or blindness."
This study follows previously published research by Orbis International highlighting the advantages of AI in eye care within low- and middle-income countries. Orbis recently released consecutive studies from Rwanda, with the first demonstrating that the utilization of AI for diabetic retinopathy can notably enhance referral uptake. The results obtained are widely applicable across various settings for AI-supported diabetic retinopathy screenings.