The new software is both quicker and more accurate at detecting changes to heart structure than humans
“Our new AI reads complex heart scans in record speed, analysing 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 analysing the scans by hand.” Dr Rhodri Davies, senior clinical fellow, UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science
A new artificial intelligence (AI) tool that can analyse heart MRI scans in just 20 seconds – compared to the 13 minutes it would take a doctor – is being rolled out to NHS trusts.
The tool, developed by researchers at University College London, is also able to detect changes to the heart structure and function with 40% greater precision than a human can, as well as extracting more information.
Each year, about 120,000 heart MRI scans are performed in the UK. The researchers say that the AI will free up health care professionals’ time, saving 3,000 clinician days every year. This will enable them to see more patients, reducing the substantial backlog in heart care.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation and a consultant cardiologist, said: “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.” The new tool, she said, could “help fast-track heart diagnoses and ease workload so that in future we can give more NHS heart patients the best possible care much sooner.”
The software will also give doctors more confidence in the results so that they can make better decisions about a patient’s treatment and possible surgery, researchers said.
Dr Rhodri Davies, of UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science and Barts Heart Centre at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, was the lead lead author of the study. He said: “Our new AI reads complex heart scans in record speed, analysing 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 analysing the scans by hand.”
He added: “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. After this initial roll-out on the NHS, we’ll collect the data, and further train and refine the AI so it can be accessible to more heart patients in the UK and across the world.”
The technology is being adopted initially at University College London (UCL) Hospital, Barts Heart Centre at St Bartholomew’s Hospital which is part of Barts Health NHS Trust, and Royal Free Hospital, where it is being used on over 140 patients a week. Later this year they plan to roll it out to another 40 locations, both in the UK and internationally.
The software, which carries out the analysis while the patient is still in the scanner, will improve diagnosis and treatment for a multitude of heart conditions, researchers say. It is designed to diagnose a new heart condition when someone is first assessed for heart disease, and 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.
This study was a collaboration between researchers at UCL, Barts Heart Centre at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Queen Mary University of London, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the USA.
It was funded by the British Heart Foundation.