Artificial Intelligence technology can accelerate heart disease diagnosis 

Artificial Intelligence technology can accelerate heart disease diagnosis 
© iStock/JazzIRT

University of Sheffield researchers have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool that can speed up heart disease diagnosis. 

An AI tool which provides a quick and comprehensive analysis of the heart’s function could improve future heart disease diagnosis and care by supplying healthcare professionals with vital information. The current process for reading the results from MRI heart scans is time-consuming and resource-intensive; therefore, finding a quicker process to provide heart disease diagnoses is important. 

The tool was developed by the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. 

How can AI improve the heart disease diagnosis process? 

The tool, named ‘The AI segmentation of cardiac MRI to automate the measurement of cardiac function and volume technology’, automatically detects chambers of the heart on images taken from MRI heart scans, a task that typically involves a lengthy manual analysis. 

Currently, MRI scans are used in the heart disease diagnosis process to check on a patient’s heart health, as they give detailed information on how the heart is pumping. This process is time-consuming for the doctors and requires multiple professionals, including cardiac imaging specialists. The specialists are first required to draw contours on the scan images of the heart and then undertake complex volumetric and mathematical calculations to work out blood flow in and out of the heart. 

The researchers believe that the AI tool will save doctors and expert imaging specialists up to 30 minutes per scan, freeing up vital NHS resources and aiding earlier heart disease diagnosis. 

Consultant Cardiothoracic Radiologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and Senior Lecturer at the University of Sheffield Dr Andrew Swift, said: “Getting answers quickly and accurately will reduce even further the time it takes for patients to begin receiving the right treatment. Obtaining complex measurements showing how well both the left and right side of the heart is pumping is a time-intensive manual task. The AI segmentation of cardiac MRI to automate the measurement of cardiac function and volume technology overcomes this problem. It has the potential to free up hospital staff to deal with more patients rather than spend time on image analysis. This is an excellent example of innovation from within the NHS and a proud legacy of the clinical and technical expertise we have here in Sheffield.” 

Testing the software on thousands of images

The AI tool has been tested on thousands of images and validated in over 5,000 anonymised patient scans at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and further tested on scans from over 30 hospitals in the UK over the past three years. The team is now hoping to make the tool available to the wider NHS with recent funding from a Medipex NHS Innovation Award win. 

The tool has a high degree of accuracy comparable, if not superior, to manual analysis in a significant proportion of heart disease diagnosis cases. 

Professor Wendy Tindale OBE, Director of Innovation at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said: “We have a long and proud history of pioneering new research and innovation that can be adopted for wider patient benefit. We are delighted that the talents of our scientific and clinical teams in identifying and looking for solutions for healthcare problems have been recognised in this prestigious regional awards scheme.” 


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