Nailfold capillaroscopy and deep learning in diabetes Academic Article uri icon

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  • Objective

    To determine whether nailfold capillary images, acquired using video capillaroscopy, can provide diagnostic information about diabetes and its complications.

    Research design and methods

    Nailfold video capillaroscopy was performed in 120 adult patients with and without type 1 or type 2 diabetes, and with and without cardiovascular disease. Nailfold images were analyzed using convolutional neural networks, a deep learning technique. Cross-validation was used to develop and test the ability of models to predict five5 prespecified states (diabetes, high glycosylated hemoglobin, cardiovascular event, retinopathy, albuminuria, and hypertension). The performance of each model for a particular state was assessed by estimating areas under the receiver operating characteristics curves (AUROC) and precision recall curves (AUPR).


    A total of 5236 nailfold images were acquired from 120 participants (mean 44 images per participant) and were all available for analysis. Models were able to accurately identify the presence of diabetes, with AUROC 0.84 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.76, 0.91) and AUPR 0.84 (95% CI 0.78, 0.93), respectively. Models were also able to predict a history of cardiovascular events in patients with diabetes, with AUROC 0.65 (95% CI 0.51, 0.78) and AUPR 0.72 (95% CI 0.62, 0.88) respectively.


    This proof-of-concept study demonstrates the potential of machine learning for identifying people with microvascular capillary changes from diabetes based on nailfold images, and for possibly identifying those most likely to have diabetes-related complications.

publication date

  • February 2023