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An ensemble of neural networks provides expert-level prenatal detection of complex congenital heart disease

, Lara Curran, Yili Zhao, Jami C. Levine, Erin Chinn, Anita J. Moon-Grady
Published: 14 May 2021
Nature Medicine , Volume 27, pp 882-891; doi:10.1038/s41591-021-01342-5

Abstract: Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the most common birth defect. Fetal screening ultrasound provides five views of the heart that together can detect 90% of complex CHD, but in practice, sensitivity is as low as 30%. Here, using 107,823 images from 1,326 retrospective echocardiograms and screening ultrasounds from 18- to 24-week fetuses, we trained an ensemble of neural networks to identify recommended cardiac views and distinguish between normal hearts and complex CHD. We also used segmentation models to calculate standard fetal cardiothoracic measurements. In an internal test set of 4,108 fetal surveys (0.9% CHD, >4.4 million images), the model achieved an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.99, 95% sensitivity (95% confidence interval (CI), 84–99%), 96% specificity (95% CI, 95–97%) and 100% negative predictive value in distinguishing normal from abnormal hearts. Model sensitivity was comparable to that of clinicians and remained robust on outside-hospital and lower-quality images. The model’s decisions were based on clinically relevant features. Cardiac measurements correlated with reported measures for normal and abnormal hearts. Applied to guideline-recommended imaging, ensemble learning models could significantly improve detection of fetal CHD, a critical and global diagnostic challenge. Deep learning can facilitate identification of congenital heart disease from fetal ultrasound screening, a diagnosis that in clinical practice is often missed.
Keywords: neural / models / CHD / fetal / congenital heart disease / ensemble / surveys

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