Artificial intelligence (AI) has made rapid inroads into the healthcare industry with diagnostic imaging being one of the most significant application areas of the technology. Unarguably, AI has been changing the contours of radiology and pathology, affecting clinical practice paradigms as never before. In recent years, the influence of AI is overwhelmingly being witnessed in ophthalmology for managing retinal diseases. A promising area poised to disrupt this paradigm is using AI to gain novel insight into disease-specific patterns in retinal diseases. Researchers at the Medical University of Vienna have recently shown that a set of algorithms based on AI can be used to analyze data optical coherence tomography (OCT) to diagnose a wide range of retinal diseases, most notably age-related macular degeneration (AMD) at early stages.

The AI-based retinal analysis method is based on machine learning and deep learning technologies and are considered as major breakthrough in digital ophthalmology at global level. Of note, the non-invasive high-resolution imaging technique OCT was also developed by the University’s Center for Medical Physics and Biomedical Technology and its Department of Ophthalmology, and is already seeing applications in clinical practice.

Delay in Diagnosing Retinal Diseases lead to Poor Treatment Outcomes

The promising potential of AI-based algorithms for analyzing OCT data was analyzed in a critical assessment of advances in retinal and eye research that looks at the role of AI in therapeutics. The insights are published in the journal Progress in Retinal and Eye Research on August 1, 2018.

Macular degeneration has assumed the proportion of worldwide epidemic in recent years with diabetes being a comorbid condition in global patient populations. Age-related macular degeneration robs the affected of their vision and delay in identifying the disease is the main culprit, thereby leading to inferior outcomes of the therapies. Against this backdrop, OCT has paved way for a breakthrough in modern medicine, characterized by faster and more in-depth visualization.

Commercialization of Digital Ophthalmology Techniques possible in Next Few Years

Over the past few years, initiatives to commercialize these digital ophthalmology techniques have begun, with technology behemoths such as Google and IBM showing increasing interest. According to researchers, it won’t be late—they opine it within three years—these digital ophthalmic diagnostic techniques will be available to the public as automatic eye scanners.

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