Deep Learning Discovery of Demographic Biomarkers in Echocardiography

13 Jul 2022  ·  Grant Duffy, Shoa L. Clarke, Matthew Christensen, Bryan He, Neal Yuan, Susan Cheng, David Ouyang ·

Deep learning has been shown to accurately assess 'hidden' phenotypes and predict biomarkers from medical imaging beyond traditional clinician interpretation of medical imaging. Given the black box nature of artificial intelligence (AI) models, caution should be exercised in applying models to healthcare as prediction tasks might be short-cut by differences in demographics across disease and patient populations. Using large echocardiography datasets from two healthcare systems, we test whether it is possible to predict age, race, and sex from cardiac ultrasound images using deep learning algorithms and assess the impact of varying confounding variables. We trained video-based convolutional neural networks to predict age, sex, and race. We found that deep learning models were able to identify age and sex, while unable to reliably predict race. Without considering confounding differences between categories, the AI model predicted sex with an AUC of 0.85 (95% CI 0.84 - 0.86), age with a mean absolute error of 9.12 years (95% CI 9.00 - 9.25), and race with AUCs ranging from 0.63 - 0.71. When predicting race, we show that tuning the proportion of a confounding variable (sex) in the training data significantly impacts model AUC (ranging from 0.57 to 0.84), while in training a sex prediction model, tuning a confounder (race) did not substantially change AUC (0.81 - 0.83). This suggests a significant proportion of the model's performance on predicting race could come from confounding features being detected by AI. Further work remains to identify the particular imaging features that associate with demographic information and to better understand the risks of demographic identification in medical AI as it pertains to potentially perpetuating bias and disparities.

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