Background The World Health Organization (WHO)-defined radiological pneumonia is a preferred endpoint in pneumococcal vaccine efficacy and effectiveness studies in children. Automating the WHO methodology may support more widespread application of this endpoint.
Methods We trained a deep learning model to classify pneumonia CXRs in children using the World Health Organization (WHO)'s standardized methodology. The model was pretrained on CheXpert, a dataset containing 224,316 adult CXRs, and fine-tuned on PERCH, a pediatric dataset containing 4,172 CXRs. The model was then tested on two pediatric CXR datasets released by WHO. We also compared the model's performance to that of radiologists and pediatricians.
Results The average area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) for primary endpoint pneumonia (PEP) across 10-fold validation of PERCH images was 0.928; average AUC after testing on WHO images was 0.977. The model's classification performance was better on test images with high inter-observer agreement; however, the model still outperformed human assessments in AUC and precision-recall spaces on low agreement images.
Conclusion A deep learning model can classify pneumonia CXR images in children at a performance comparable to human readers. Our method lays a strong foundation for the potential inclusion of computer-aided readings of pediatric CXRs in vaccine trials and epidemiology studies.