CheXternal: Generalization of Deep Learning Models for Chest X-ray Interpretation to Photos of Chest X-rays and External Clinical Settings

Pranav Rajpurkar, Anirudh Joshi, Anuj Pareek, Andrew Y. Ng, and Matthew P. Lungren (Stanford University)

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Abstract: Recent advances in training deep learning models have demonstrated the potential to provide accurate chest X-ray interpretation and increase access to radiology expertise. However, poor generalization due to data distribution shifts in clinical settings is a key barrier to implementation. In this study, we measured the diagnostic performance for 8 different chest X-ray models when applied to (1) smartphone photos of chest X-rays and (2) external datasets without any finetuning. All models were developed by different groups and submitted to the CheXpert challenge, and re-applied to test datasets without further tuning. We found that (1) on photos of chest X-rays, all 8 models experienced a statistically significant drop in task performance, but only 3 performed significantly worse than radiologists on average, and (2) on the external set, none of the models performed statistically significantly worse than radiologists, and five models performed statistically significantly better than radiologists. Our results demonstrate that some chest X-ray models, under clinically relevant distribution shifts, were comparable to radiologists while other models were not. Future work should investigate aspects of model training procedures and dataset collection that influence generalization in the presence of data distribution shifts.

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