Machine learning for abdominal aortic calcification assessment from bone density machine-derived lateral spine images

Naeha Sharif, Syed Zulqarnain Gilani, David Suter, Siobhan Reid, Pawel Szulc, Douglas Kimelman, Barret A. Monchka, Mohammad Jafari Jozani, Jonathan M. Hodgson, Marc Sim, Kun Zhu, Nicholas C. Harvey, Douglas P. Kiel, Richard L. Prince, John T. Schousboe, William D. Leslie, Joshua R. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Lateral spine images for vertebral fracture assessment can be easily obtained on modern bone density machines. Abdominal aortic calcification (AAC) can be scored on these images by trained imaging specialists to assess cardiovascular disease risk. However, this process is laborious and requires careful training.

Training and testing of model performance of the convolutional neural network (CNN) algorithm for automated AAC-24 scoring utilised 5012 lateral spine images (2 manufacturers, 4 models of bone density machines), with trained imaging specialist AAC scores. Validation occurred in a registry-based cohort study of 8565 older men and women with images captured as part of routine clinical practice for fracture risk assessment. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate the association between machine-learning AAC (ML-AAC-24) scores with future incident Major Adverse Cardiovascular Events (MACE) that including death, hospitalised acute myocardial infarction or ischemic cerebrovascular disease ascertained from linked healthcare data.

The average intraclass correlation coefficient between imaging specialist and ML-AAC-24 scores for 5012 images was 0.84 (95% CI 0.83, 0.84) with classification accuracy of 80% for established AAC groups. During a mean follow-up 4 years in the registry-based cohort, MACE outcomes were reported in 1177 people (13.7%). With increasing ML-AAC-24 scores there was an increasing proportion of people with MACE (low 7.9%, moderate 14.5%, high 21.2%), as well as individual MACE components (all p-trend <0.001). After multivariable adjustment, moderate and high ML-AAC-24 groups remained significantly associated with MACE (HR 1.54, 95% CI 1.31–1.80 & HR 2.06, 95% CI 1.75–2.42, respectively), compared to those with low ML-AAC-24.

The ML-AAC-24 scores had substantial levels of agreement with trained imaging specialists, and was associated with a substantial gradient of risk for cardiovascular events in a real-world setting. This approach could be readily implemented into these clinical settings to improve identification of people at high CVD risk.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104676
Early online date12 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


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