Failure to identify difficult intubation is the leading cause of anesthesia-related death and morbidity. Despite preoperative airway assessment, 75-93% of difficult intubations are unanticipated, and airway examination methods underperform, with sensitivities of 20-62% and specificities of 82-97%. To overcome these impediments, we aim to develop a deep learning model to identify difficult to intubate patients using frontal face images. We proposed an ensemble of convolutional neural networks which leverages a database of celebrity facial images to learn robust features of multiple face regions. This ensemble extracts features from patient images (n = 152) which are subsequently classified by a respective ensemble of attention-based multiple instance learning models. Through majority voting, a patient is classified as difficult or easy to intubate. Whereas two conventional bedside tests resulted in AUCs of 0.6042 and 0.4661, the proposed method resulted in an AUC of 0.7105 using a cohort of 76 difficult and 76 easy to intubate patients. Generic features yielded AUCs of 0.4654-0.6278. The proposed model can operate at high sensitivity and low specificity (0.9079 and 0.4474) or low sensitivity and high specificity (0.3684 and 0.9605). The proposed ensembled model outperforms conventional bedside tests and generic features. Side facial images may improve the performance of the proposed model. The proposed method significantly surpasses conventional bedside tests and deep learning methods. We expect our model will play an important role in developing deep learning methods where frontal face features play an important role.
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