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Weakly-supervised detection of AMD-related lesions in color fundus images using explainable deep learning

by   José Morano, et al.
Universidade da Coruña

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a degenerative disorder affecting the macula, a key area of the retina for visual acuity. Nowadays, it is the most frequent cause of blindness in developed countries. Although some promising treatments have been developed, their effectiveness is low in advanced stages. This emphasizes the importance of large-scale screening programs. Nevertheless, implementing such programs for AMD is usually unfeasible, since the population at risk is large and the diagnosis is challenging. All this motivates the development of automatic methods. In this sense, several works have achieved positive results for AMD diagnosis using convolutional neural networks (CNNs). However, none incorporates explainability mechanisms, which limits their use in clinical practice. In that regard, we propose an explainable deep learning approach for the diagnosis of AMD via the joint identification of its associated retinal lesions. In our proposal, a CNN is trained end-to-end for the joint task using image-level labels. The provided lesion information is of clinical interest, as it allows to assess the developmental stage of AMD. Additionally, the approach allows to explain the diagnosis from the identified lesions. This is possible thanks to the use of a CNN with a custom setting that links the lesions and the diagnosis. Furthermore, the proposed setting also allows to obtain coarse lesion segmentation maps in a weakly-supervised way, further improving the explainability. The training data for the approach can be obtained without much extra work by clinicians. The experiments conducted demonstrate that our approach can identify AMD and its associated lesions satisfactorily, while providing adequate coarse segmentation maps for most common lesions.


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