Pilot study of machine learning in the task of distinguishing high and low-grade pediatric hydronephrosis on ultrasound

Investig Clin Urol. 2023 Nov;64(6):588-596. doi: 10.4111/icu.20230170.


Purpose: Hydronephrosis is a common pediatric urological condition, characterized by dilation of the renal collecting system. Accurate identification of the severity of hydronephrosis is crucial in clinical management, as high-grade hydronephrosis can cause significant damage to the kidney. In this pilot study, we demonstrate the feasibility of machine learning in differentiating between high and low-grade hydronephrosis in pediatric patients.

Materials and methods: We retrospectively reviewed 592 images from 90 unique patients ages 0-8 years diagnosed with hydronephrosis at the University of Chicago's Pediatric Urology Clinic. The study included 74 high-grade hydronephrosis (145 images) and 227 low-grade hydronephrosis (447 images). Patients were excluded if they had less than 2 studies prior to surgical intervention or had structural abnormalities. We developed a radiomic-based artificial intelligence algorithm incorporating computerized texture analysis and machine learning (support-vector machine) to yield a predictor of hydronephrosis grade.

Results: Receiver operating characteristic analysis of the classifier output yielded an area under the curve value of 0.86 (95% CI 0.81-0.92) in the task of distinguishing between low and high-grade hydronephrosis using a five-fold cross-validation by kidney. In addition, a Mann-Kendall trend test between computer output and clinical hydronephrosis grade yielded a statistically significant upward trend (p<0.001).

Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate the potential of machine learning in the differentiation between low and high-grade hydronephrosis. Further studies are warranted to validate our findings and their generalizability for use in clinical practice as a means to predict clinical outcomes and the resolution of hydronephrosis.

Keywords: Hydronephrosis; Machine learning; Urology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Intelligence*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Hydronephrosis* / etiology
  • Machine Learning
  • Pilot Projects
  • Retrospective Studies