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BACKGROUND: Currently in the United Kingdom, cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk assessment is based on the QRISK3 score, in which 10% 10-year CVD risk indicates clinical intervention. However, this benchmark has limited efficacy in clinical practice and the need for a more simple, non-invasive risk stratification tool is necessary. Retinal photography is becoming increasingly acceptable as a non-invasive imaging tool for CVD. Previously, we developed a novel CVD risk stratification system based on retinal photographs predicting future CVD risk. This study aims to further validate our biomarker, Reti-CVD, (1) to detect risk group of ≥ 10% in 10-year CVD risk and (2) enhance risk assessment in individuals with QRISK3 of 7.5-10% (termed as borderline-QRISK3 group) using the UK Biobank. METHODS: Reti-CVD scores were calculated and stratified into three risk groups based on optimized cut-off values from the UK Biobank. We used Cox proportional-hazards models to evaluate the ability of Reti-CVD to predict CVD events in the general population. C-statistics was used to assess the prognostic value of adding Reti-CVD to QRISK3 in borderline-QRISK3 group and three vulnerable subgroups. RESULTS: Among 48,260 participants with no history of CVD, 6.3% had CVD events during the 11-year follow-up. Reti-CVD was associated with an increased risk of CVD (adjusted hazard ratio [HR] 1.41; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.30-1.52) with a 13.1% (95% CI, 11.7-14.6%) 10-year CVD risk in Reti-CVD-high-risk group. The 10-year CVD risk of the borderline-QRISK3 group was greater than 10% in Reti-CVD-high-risk group (11.5% in non-statin cohort [n = 45,473], 11.5% in stage 1 hypertension cohort [n = 11,966], and 14.2% in middle-aged cohort [n = 38,941]). C statistics increased by 0.014 (0.010-0.017) in non-statin cohort, 0.013 (0.007-0.019) in stage 1 hypertension cohort, and 0.023 (0.018-0.029) in middle-aged cohort for CVD event prediction after adding Reti-CVD to QRISK3. CONCLUSIONS: Reti-CVD has the potential to identify individuals with ≥ 10% 10-year CVD risk who are likely to benefit from earlier preventative CVD interventions. For borderline-QRISK3 individuals with 10-year CVD risk between 7.5 and 10%, Reti-CVD could be used as a risk enhancer tool to help improve discernment accuracy, especially in adult groups that may be pre-disposed to CVD.

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Artificial intelligence, Cardiovascular disease, Deep learning, Retinal imaging, Retinal photograph, Risk stratification, Risk stratification system, UK Biobank, Adult, Middle Aged, Humans, Cardiovascular Diseases, Biological Specimen Banks, Deep Learning, Risk Factors, United Kingdom, Hypertension, Biomarkers