Using artificial intelligence to diagnose diabetic retinopathy before it causes blindness

Artificial intelligence (AI) is now being used to autonomously diagnose a diabetes-related eye disorder in patients at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.

University of Iowa Health Care is the first U.S. medical center to start using IDx-DR – a technology that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnose diabetic retinopathy, a condition in which poorly controlled blood sugar leads to damaged blood vessels in the back of the eye. IDx-DR is the first device authorized by the FDA for marketing that provides a screening decision without the need for a clinician to also interpret the image or results.

Between 12,000 and 24,000 Americans lose their vision to diabetic retinopathy each year, but the condition can be treated if caught early. The IDx-DR system, which is integrated into our electronic health record, allows people with diabetes to get a critical eye exam as part of their regular primary visit, without having to make a separate appointment with an eye specialist. If the AI detects diabetic retinopathy, the patient can be referred to an eye specialist and start treatment, which can prevent blindness.

The technology has a long history in Iowa. It was created by the Coralville-based company IDx, a privately held AI diagnostics company, which was founded by UI Health Care ophthalmologist Michael Abràmoff in 2010. Much of the research used to develop IDx-DR was conducted by Abràmoff at the University of Iowa and licensed through the UI Research Foundation. Abràmoff also is president of IDx.

Providers at the Diabetes and Endocrinology Center at UI Health Care-Iowa River Landing in Coralville began using IDx-DR to screen patients on June 12. The clinic has approximately 7,200 diabetes and endocrinology patient visits each year.

Learn more: