A Novel Deep Learning Pipeline for Retinal Vessel Detection in Fluorescein Angiography

Li Ding, Mohammad H. Bawany, Ajay E. Kuriyan, Rajeev S. Ramchandran, Charles C. Wykoff, Gaurav Sharma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


While recent advances in deep learning have significantly advanced the state of the art for vessel detection in color fundus (CF) images, the success for detecting vessels in fluorescein angiography (FA) has been stymied due to the lack of labeled ground truth datasets. We propose a novel pipeline to detect retinal vessels in FA images using deep neural networks (DNNs) that reduces the effort required for generating labeled ground truth data by combining two key components: cross-modality transfer and human-in-the-loop learning. The cross-modality transfer exploits concurrently captured CF and fundus FA images. Binary vessels maps are first detected from CF images with a pre-trained neural network and then are geometrically registered with and transferred to FA images via robust parametric chamfer alignment to a preliminary FA vessel detection obtained with an unsupervised technique. Using the transferred vessels as initial ground truth labels for deep learning, the human-in-the-loop approach progressively improves the quality of the ground truth labeling by iterating between deep-learning and labeling. The approach significantly reduces manual labeling effort while increasing engagement. We highlight several important considerations for the proposed methodology and validate the performance on three datasets. Experimental results demonstrate that the proposed pipeline significantly reduces the annotation effort and the resulting deep learning methods outperform prior existing FA vessel detection methods by a significant margin. A new public dataset, RECOVERY-FA19, is introduced that includes high-resolution ultra-widefield images and accurately labeled ground truth binary vessel maps.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9090289
Pages (from-to)6561-6573
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Image Processing
StatePublished - May 8 2020


  • Fluorescein angiography
  • deep learning
  • generative adversarial networks
  • retinal image analysis
  • vessel detection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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