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First-of-Its-Kind AI Tool Analyzes Heart MRI Scans in Just 20 Seconds

By MedImaging International staff writers
Posted on 18 Mar 2022
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Image: Superhuman 20 second AI heart tool to begin roll-out (Photo courtesy of University College London)
Image: Superhuman 20 second AI heart tool to begin roll-out (Photo courtesy of University College London)

A new artificial intelligence (AI) tool can be used to detect heart disease in record speed, helping to improve care for heart patients.

The first-of-its-kind AI tool, developed by a team of scientists and cardiologists at University College London (UCL, London, UK) analyses heart MRI scans in just 20 seconds whilst the patient is in the scanner. This compares to the 13 minutes or more it would take for a doctor to manually analyze the images after the MRI scan has been performed. It also detects changes to the heart structure and function with 40% greater precision and extracts more information than a human can.

The team trained the AI to measure the size of the left ventricle (the main pumping chamber of the heart), the thickness of the heart muscle and how well the left ventricle was able to pump blood around the body. They did this using heart MRI scans from 1,923 people - including people with seven different heart conditions at 13 different hospitals and using 10 different models of MRI scanner. The AI was then validated on a further 109 patients who were scanned twice. They found that the AI technology analyzed heart MRI scans more precisely than three doctors, removing the issue of subjectivity with human analysis.

The technology will improve diagnosis and treatment for a multitude of heart conditions. It is designed to diagnose a new heart condition when someone is first assessed for heart disease. It can spot early signs of heart disease - such as after having chemotherapy - which in some cases can cause damage to the heart, and it has the potential to screen for heart conditions in people with a family history of heart disease. The tool also helps doctors to see how patients with heart conditions are responding to their treatment, so they can then make any necessary adjustments.

According to the researchers, the AI will free-up valuable time of healthcare professionals so that their attention can be directed to seeing more patients on waiting lists, which will ultimately help with the backlog in vital heart care. The AI will also give patients and doctors more confidence in the results so that they can make better decisions about a person’s treatment and possible surgeries.

“Our new AI reads complex heart scans in record speed, analyzing the structure and function of a patient’s heart with more precision than ever before. The beauty of the technology is that it replaces the need for a doctor to spend countless hours analyzing the scans by hand,” said Dr. Rhodri Davies (UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science and Barts Heart Centre at St Bartholomew’s Hospital), who was the study’s lead author. “We are continually pushing the technology to ensure it’s the best it can be, so that it can work for any patient with any heart disease.”

“This is a huge advance for doctors and patients, which is revolutionizing the way we can analyze a person’s heart MRI images to determine if they have heart disease at greater speed,” said Dr. Sonya Babu-Narayan, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation and Consultant Cardiologist. “The pandemic has resulted in a backlog of hundreds of thousands of people waiting for vital heart scans, treatment and care. Despite the delay in cardiac care, whilst people remain on waiting lists, they risk avoidable disability and death. That’s why it’s heartening to see innovations like this, which together could help fast-track heart diagnoses and ease workload.”

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University College London 

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