Robust detection and classification of longitudinal changes in color retinal fundus images for monitoring diabetic retinopathy

Harihar Narasimha-Iyer, Ali Can, Badrinath Roysam, Charles V Stewart, Howard L Tanenbaum, Anna Majerovics, Hanumant Singh
IEEE Transactions on Bio-medical Engineering 2006, 53 (6): 1084-98
A fully automated approach is presented for robust detection and classification of changes in longitudinal time-series of color retinal fundus images of diabetic retinopathy. The method is robust to: 1) spatial variations in illumination resulting from instrument limitations and changes both within, and between patient visits; 2) imaging artifacts such as dust particles; 3) outliers in the training data; 4) segmentation and alignment errors. Robustness to illumination variation is achieved by a novel iterative algorithm to estimate the reflectance of the retina exploiting automatically extracted segmentations of the retinal vasculature, optic disk, fovea, and pathologies. Robustness to dust artifacts is achieved by exploiting their spectral characteristics, enabling application to film-based, as well as digital imaging systems. False changes from alignment errors are minimized by subpixel accuracy registration using a 12-parameter transformation that accounts for unknown retinal curvature and camera parameters. Bayesian detection and classification algorithms are used to generate a color-coded output that is readily inspected. A multiobserver validation on 43 image pairs from 22 eyes involving nonproliferative and proliferative diabetic retinopathies, showed a 97% change detection rate, a 3% miss rate, and a 10% false alarm rate. The performance in correctly classifying the changes was 99.3%. A self-consistency metric, and an error factor were developed to measure performance over more than two periods. The average self consistency was 94% and the error factor was 0.06%. Although this study focuses on diabetic changes, the proposed techniques have broader applicability in ophthalmology.

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