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Med Hypotheses. 2019 Aug;129:109242. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2019.109242. Epub 2019 May 21.

Detection of microaneurysms using ant colony algorithm in the early diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy.

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Kahramanmaras Sutcu Imam University, Department of Electrical & Electronics Engineering, Kahramanmaras, Turkey.
Kahramanmaras Sutcu Imam University, Department of Electrical & Electronics Engineering, Kahramanmaras, Turkey. Electronic address:


Microaneurysms are lesions in the shape of small circular dilations which result from thinning in peripheral retinal blood vessels due to diabetes and increasing intra-retinal blood pressure. Because it is considered as the most important clinical finding in the diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy, accurate detection of these lesions bear utmost importance in the early diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy. The present study aims to accurately, effectively and automatically detect microaneurysms which are difficult to detect in color fundus images in early stage. To this aim, ant colony algorithm, which is an important optimization method, was used instead of conventional image processing techniques. First, retinal vascular structure was extracted from color fundus images in Messidor and DiaretDB1 data sets. Afterwards, the segmentation of microaneurysms was effectively carried out using ant colony algorithm. The same procedure was also applied to five different image processing and clustering algorithms (watershed, random walker, k-means, maximum entropy and region growing) in order to compare the performance of the proposed method with other methods. Microaneurysm images manually detected by a specialist eye doctor were used to measure the performances of above-mentioned methods. The similarities among microaneurysms which were automatically and manually segmented were tested using Dice and Jaccard similarity index values. Dice index values obtained from the study vary between 0.52 and 0.98 in maximum entropy, 0.55 and 0.88 in watershed, 0.75 and 0.86 in region growing, 0.55 and 0.78 in k-means, and 0.66 and 0.83 in random walker, and 0.81 and 0.9 in ant colony. Similar performance values were also obtained in Jaccard index. The results show that different performances were observed in the conventional segmentation of microaneurysms depending on the image quality. On the other hand, the ant colony based method proposed in this paper displays a more stabilized and higher performance irrespective of image contrast. Therefore, it is evident that the proposed method successfully detects microaneurysms even in low quality images, thus helping specialists diagnose them in an easier way.


Ant colony; Diabetic retinopathy; Image segmentation; Microaneurysms


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