to detect heart diseases
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Can selfies be used to detect heart diseases?

Yes selfies can be used to detect heart diseases. According to the new study published in the European Heart Journal, it is possible to use a deep learning computer algorithm to detect coronary artery disease (CAD) by analyzing four photographs of a person’s face. Though this needs to be studied further and needs to be tested on large no of people from different ethnic backgrounds, the researchers say that it can be used as a tool that could identify heart diseases in people. That sounds interesting because sending selfies to the doctor is both cheaper and time-saving.

Selfies can be used to detect heart diseases in human beings.

“To our knowledge, this is the first work demonstrating that artificial intelligence can be used to analyse faces to detect heart disease. It is a step towards the development of a deep learning-based tool that could be used to assess the risk of heart disease, either in outpatient clinics or by means of patients taking ‘selfies’ to perform their own screening. This could guide further diagnostic testing or a clinical visit,” said Professor Zhe Zheng, who led the research. He continued: “Our ultimate goal is to develop a self-reported application for high-risk communities to assess heart disease risk in advance of visiting a clinic. This could be a cheap, simple and effective of identifying patients who need further investigation. However, the algorithm requires further refinement and external validation in other populations and ethnicities.”

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Professor Ji said: “The algorithm had moderate performance, and additional clinical information did not improve its performance, which means it could be used easily to predict potential heart disease based on facial photos alone. The cheek, forehead and nose contributed more information to the algorithm than other facial areas. However, we need to improve the specificity as a false positive rate of as much as 46 per cent may cause anxiety and inconvenience to patients, as well as potentially overloading clinics with patients requiring unnecessary tests.”

They continue: “Using selfies as a screening method can enable a simple yet efficient way to filter the general population towards more comprehensive clinical evaluation. Such an approach can also be highly relevant to regions of the globe that are underfunded and have weak screening programmes for cardiovascular disease. A selection process that can be done as easily as taking a selfie will allow for a stratified flow of people that are fed into healthcare systems for first-line diagnostic testing with CCTA. Indeed, the ‘high risk’ individuals could have a CCTA, which would allow reliable risk stratification with the use of the new, AI-powered methodologies for CCTA image analysis.”

Further, they added that it can raise some ethical questions about, “

misuse of information for discriminatory purposes. Unwanted dissemination of sensitive health record data, that can easily be extracted from a facial photo, renders technologies such as that discussed here a significant threat to personal data protection, potentially affecting insurance options. Such fears have already been expressed over misuse of genetic data, and should be extensively revisited regarding the use of AI in medicine.”

The authors of the research paper agree on this point. Professor Zheng said: “Ethical issues in developing and applying these novel technologies is of key importance. We believe that future research on clinical tools should pay attention to the privacy, insurance and other social implications to ensure that the tool is used only for medical purposes.”

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Riya Arora

Riya Arora

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