Effect of a comprehensive deep-learning model on the accuracy of chest x-ray interpretation by radiologists: a retrospective, multireader multicase study

Lancet Digital Health, July 1 2021.


Jarrel C Y Seah, Cyril H M Tang, Quinlan D Buchlak, Xavier G Holt, Jeffrey B Wardman, Anuar Aimoldin, Nazanin Esmaili, Hassan Ahmad, Hung Pham, John F Lambert, Ben Hachey, Stephen J F Hogg, Benjamin P Johnston, Christine Bennett, Luke Oakden-Rayner, Peter Brotchie, Catherine M Jones


Background Chest x-rays are widely used in clinical practice; however, interpretation can be hindered by human error and a lack of experienced thoracic radiologists. Deep learning has the potential to improve the accuracy of chest x-ray interpretation. We therefore aimed to assess the accuracy of radiologists with and without the assistance of a deep-learning model.


In this retrospective study, a deep-learning model was trained on 821 681 images (284 649 patients) from five data sets from Australia, Europe, and the USA. 2568 enriched chest x-ray cases from adult patients (≥16 years) who had at least one frontal chest x-ray were included in the test dataset; cases were representative of inpatient, outpatient, and emergency settings. 20 radiologists reviewed cases with and without the assistance of the deep-learning model with a 3-month washout period. We assessed the change in accuracy of chest x-ray interpretation across 127 clinical findings when the deep-learning model was used as a decision support by calculating area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) for each radiologist with and without the deep-learning model. We also compared AUCs for the model alone with those of unassisted radiologists. If the lower bound of the adjusted 95% CI of the difference in AUC between the model and the unassisted radiologists was more than –0·05, the model was considered to be non-inferior for that finding. If the lower bound exceeded 0, the model was considered to be superior.


Unassisted radiologists had a macroaveraged AUC of 0·713 (95% CI 0·645–0·785) across the 127 clinical findings, compared with 0·808 (0·763–0·839) when assisted by the model. The deep-learning model statistically significantly improved the classification accuracy of radiologists for 102 (80%) of 127 clinical findings, was statistically non-inferior for 19 (15%) findings, and no findings showed a decrease in accuracy when radiologists used the deep-learning model. Unassisted radiologists had a macroaveraged mean AUC of 0·713 (0·645–0·785) across all findings, compared with 0·957 (0·954–0·959) for the model alone. Model classification alone was significantly more accurate than unassisted radiologists for 117 (94%) of 124 clinical findings predicted by the model and was non-inferior to unassisted radiologists for all other clinical findings.

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