Impact of a deep learning assistant on the histopathologic classification of liver cancer

Amirhossein Kiani, Bora Uyumazturk, Pranav Rajpurkar, Alex Wang, Rebecca Gao, Erik Jones, Yifan Yu, Curtis P. Langlotz, Robyn L. Ball, Thomas J. Montine, Brock A. Martin, Gerald J. Berry, Michael G. Ozawa, Florette K. Hazard, Ryanne A. Brown, Simon B. Chen, Mona Wood, Libby S. Allard, Lourdes Ylagan, Andrew Y. NgJeanne Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms continue to rival human performance on a variety of clinical tasks, while their actual impact on human diagnosticians, when incorporated into clinical workflows, remains relatively unexplored. In this study, we developed a deep learning-based assistant to help pathologists differentiate between two subtypes of primary liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma, on hematoxylin and eosin-stained whole-slide images (WSI), and evaluated its effect on the diagnostic performance of 11 pathologists with varying levels of expertise. Our model achieved accuracies of 0.885 on a validation set of 26 WSI, and 0.842 on an independent test set of 80 WSI. Although use of the assistant did not change the mean accuracy of the 11 pathologists (p = 0.184, OR = 1.281), it significantly improved the accuracy (p = 0.045, OR = 1.499) of a subset of nine pathologists who fell within well-defined experience levels (GI subspecialists, non-GI subspecialists, and trainees). In the assisted state, model accuracy significantly impacted the diagnostic decisions of all 11 pathologists. As expected, when the model’s prediction was correct, assistance significantly improved accuracy (p = 0.000, OR = 4.289), whereas when the model’s prediction was incorrect, assistance significantly decreased accuracy (p = 0.000, OR = 0.253), with both effects holding across all pathologist experience levels and case difficulty levels. Our results highlight the challenges of translating AI models into the clinical setting, and emphasize the importance of taking into account potential unintended negative consequences of model assistance when designing and testing medical AI-assistance tools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number23
Journalnpj Digital Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Information Management


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