To probabilistically forecast needed anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) treatment frequency using volumetric spectral domain-optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) biomarkers in neovascular age-related macular degeneration from real-world settings.
SD-OCT volume scans were segmented with a custom deep-learning-based analysis pipeline. Retinal thickness and reflectivity values were extracted for the central and the four inner Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study (ETDRS) subfields for six retinal layers (inner retina, outer nuclear layer, inner segments [IS], outer segments [OS], retinal pigment epithelium-drusen complex [RPEDC] and the choroid). Machine-learning models were probed to predict the anti-VEGF treatment frequency within the next 12 months. Probabilistic forecasting was performed using natural gradient boosting (NGBoost), which outputs a full probability distribution. The mean absolute error (MAE) between the predicted versus actual anti-VEGF treatment frequency was the primary outcome measure.
In a total of 138 visits of 99 eyes with neovascular AMD (96 patients) from two clinical centers, the prediction of future anti-VEGF treatment frequency was observed with an accuracy (MAE [95% confidence interval]) of 2.60 injections/year [2.25-2.96] (R2 = 0.390) using random forest regression and 2.66 injections/year [2.31-3.01] (R2 = 0.094) using NGBoost, respectively. Prediction intervals were well calibrated and reflected the true uncertainty of NGBoost-based predictions. Standard deviation of RPEDC-thickness in the central ETDRS-subfield constituted an important predictor across models.
The proposed, fully automated pipeline enables probabilistic forecasting of future anti-VEGF treatment frequency in real-world settings.
Prediction of a probability distribution allows the physician to inspect the underlying uncertainty. Predictive uncertainty estimates are essential to highlight cases where human-inspection and/or reversion to a fallback alternative is warranted.