A method to assist in the diagnosis of early diabetic retinopathy: Image processing applied to detection of microaneurysms in fundus images

Roberto Rosas-Romero, Jorge Martínez-Carballido, Jonathan Hernández-Capistrán, Laura J Uribe-Valencia
Computerized Medical Imaging and Graphics: the Official Journal of the Computerized Medical Imaging Society 2015, 44: 41-53
Diabetes increases the risk of developing any deterioration in the blood vessels that supply the retina, an ailment known as Diabetic Retinopathy (DR). Since this disease is asymptomatic, it can only be diagnosed by an ophthalmologist. However, the growth of the number of ophthalmologists is lower than the growth of the population with diabetes so that preventive and early diagnosis is difficult due to the lack of opportunity in terms of time and cost. Preliminary, affordable and accessible ophthalmological diagnosis will give the opportunity to perform routine preventive examinations, indicating the need to consult an ophthalmologist during a stage of non proliferation. During this stage, there is a lesion on the retina known as microaneurysm (MA), which is one of the first clinically observable lesions that indicate the disease. In recent years, different image processing algorithms, which allow the detection of the DR, have been developed; however, the issue is still open since acceptable levels of sensitivity and specificity have not yet been reached, preventing its use as a pre-diagnostic tool. Consequently, this work proposes a new approach for MA detection based on (1) reduction of non-uniform illumination; (2) normalization of image grayscale content to improve dependence of images from different contexts; (3) application of the bottom-hat transform to leave reddish regions intact while suppressing bright objects; (4) binarization of the image of interest with the result that objects corresponding to MAs, blood vessels, and other reddish objects (Regions of Interest-ROIs) are completely separated from the background; (5) application of the hit-or-miss Transformation on the binary image to remove blood vessels from the ROIs; (6) two features are extracted from a candidate to distinguish real MAs from FPs, where one feature discriminates round shaped candidates (MAs) from elongated shaped ones (vessels) through application of Principal Component Analysis (PCA); (7) the second feature is a count of the number of times that the radon transform of the candidate ROI, evaluated at the set of discrete angle values {0°, 1°, 2°, …, 180°}, is characterized by a valley between two peaks. The proposed approach is tested on the public databases DiaretDB1 and Retinopathy Online Challenge (ROC) competition. The proposed MA detection method achieves sensitivity, specificity and precision of 92.32%, 93.87% and 95.93% for the diaretDB1 database and 88.06%, 97.47% and 92.19% for the ROC database. Theory, results, challenges and performance related to the proposed MA detecting method are presented.

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