Despite the well-established impact of sex and sex hormones on bone structure and density, there has been limited description of sexual dimorphism in the hand and wrist in the literature. We developed a deep convolutional neural network (CNN) model to predict sex based on hand radiographs of children and adults aged between 5 and 70 years. Of the 1531 radiographs tested, the algorithm predicted sex correctly in 95.9% (κ = 0.92) of the cases. Two human radiologists achieved 58% (κ = 0.15) and 46% (κ = - 0.07) accuracy. The class activation maps (CAM) showed that the model mostly focused on the 2nd and 3rd metacarpal base or thumb sesamoid in women, and distal radioulnar joint, distal radial physis and epiphysis, or 3rd metacarpophalangeal joint in men. The radiologists reviewed 70 cases (35 females and 35 males) labeled with sex along with heat maps generated by CAM, but they could not find any patterns that distinguish the two sexes. A small sample of patients (n = 44) with sexual developmental disorders or transgender identity was selected for a preliminary exploration of application of the model. The model prediction agreed with phenotypic sex in only 77.8% (κ = 0.54) of these cases. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study that demonstrated a machine learning model to perform a task in which human experts could not fulfill.
Keywords: Artificial intelligence; Bone development; Machine learning; Sexual development; Sexual dimorphism.
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