Effect of digital image compression on screening for diabetic retinopathy

R. S. B. Newsom*, A. Clover, M. T. J. Costen, J. Sadler, J. Newton, A. J. Luff, C. R. Canning

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background/aims: Digital imaging is widely used for diabetic retinopathy screening. The storage and transmission of digital images can be facilitated by image compression. The authors aimed to assess the effect of image compression on the accuracy of grading diabetic retinopathy.

Methods: Forty nine 35 mm transparencies (17 with no retinopathy, eight with background, five with preproliferative, and 19 with proliferative retinopathy) were digitised and subjected to JPEG compression by 90%, 80%, 70%, and 0%. The 196 images were randomised and graded on a portable computer. Two masked graders assessed the images for grade of retinopathy and image quality (0-10). The sensitivity and specificity of retinopathy grading were calculated with a weighted kappa for grading agreement between levels of compression. 

Results: The sensitivity of retinopathy grading was reduced by JPEG compression. At 90%, 80%, 70%, and 0% compression the sensitivities were 0.38, 0.50, 0.65, and 0.72, respectively; the specificity results were 1.00, 1.00, 0.83, and 0.84, respectively; and the weighted kappa scores were 0.60, 0.75, 0.77, and 0.84, respectively. The quality scores for 90%, 80%, 70%, 0% compression were 2.9 (SD 1.1, 95% CI; 2.7-3.2), 4.6 (SD 1.1, 95% CI; 3.0-5.6), 5.8 (SD 1.5, 95% CI 5.0-6.6), 6.3 (SD 1.4, 95% CI; 5.4-7.2) (p<0.01 for each intergroup comparison). 

Conclusion: The results demonstrate significant loss of sensitivity to the features of diabetic retinopathy with JPEG compression; this was compounded by the thin film transistor (TFT) screen. The authors found the quality of uncompressed images on TFT screens too poor to give grading sensitivities which reach current guidelines for diabetic retinopathy screening.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)799-802
Number of pages4
JournalBritish Journal of Ophthalmology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2001


Dive into the research topics of 'Effect of digital image compression on screening for diabetic retinopathy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this