Front Med (Lausanne). 2023 Aug 21;10:1228833. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2023.1228833. eCollection 2023.
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Accurate and fast diagnosis of rheumatic diseases affecting the hands is essential for further treatment decisions. Fluorescence optical imaging (FOI) visualizes inflammation-induced impaired microcirculation by increasing signal intensity, resulting in different image features. This analysis aimed to find specific image features in FOI that might be important for accurately diagnosing different rheumatic diseases.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: FOI images of the hands of patients with different types of rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA), and connective tissue diseases (CTD), were assessed in a reading of 20 different image features in three phases of the contrast agent dynamics, yielding 60 different features for each patient. The readings were analyzed for mutual differential diagnosis of the three diseases (One-vs-One) and each disease in all data (One-vs-Rest). In the first step, statistical tools and machine-learning-based methods were applied to reveal the importance rankings of the features, that is, to find features that contribute most to the model-based classification. In the second step machine learning with a stepwise increasing number of features was applied, sequentially adding at each step the most crucial remaining feature to extract a minimized subset that yields the highest diagnostic accuracy.
RESULTS: In total, n = 605 FOI of both hands were analyzed (n = 235 with RA, n = 229 with OA, and n = 141 with CTD). All classification problems showed maximum accuracy with a reduced set of image features. For RA-vs.-OA, five features were needed for high accuracy. For RA-vs.-CTD ten, OA-vs.-CTD sixteen, RA-vs.-Rest five, OA-vs.-Rest eleven, and CTD-vs-Rest fifteen, features were needed, respectively. For all problems, the final importance ranking of the features with respect to the contrast agent dynamics was determined.
CONCLUSIONS: With the presented investigations, the set of features in FOI examinations relevant to the differential diagnosis of the selected rheumatic diseases could be remarkably reduced, providing helpful information for the physician.