Artificial intelligence has accurately predicted the possibility of heart attack or stroke for the first time, new research suggests.
A study led by Barts Health NHS Trust and University College London used AI to analyse blood flow scans and compared its predictions with the health outcome of patients.
It said those comparisons showed the AI technique had, for the first time, been able to predict which patients might suffer health issues related to blood flow more accurately than a doctor using traditional means.
Researchers say the study is the first time blood flow scans have been analysed in this way and could be used by medical teams to help recommend treatments.
Heart disease is the leading global cause of death and illness, with reduced blood flow, which is often treatable, a common symptom of many heart conditions.
International guidelines recommend a number of assessments to measure a patient’s blood flow, but many are invasive and carry risk, the study said.
Some non-invasive assessments are available, such as Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance (CMR) imaging, but the researchers argue scan images using this technique are difficult to analyse in a precise enough manner to recommend treatment.
Professor James Moon, from Barts Health NHS Trust and University College London, said: “Artificial intelligence is moving out of the computer labs and into the real world of healthcare, carrying out some tasks better than doctors could do alone.
“We have tried to measure blood flow manually before, but it is tedious and time-consuming, taking doctors away from where they are needed most, with their patients.”
The study, which was funded by the British Heart Foundation and published in the journal Circulation, said researchers used CMR scans from more than 1,000 patients at St Bartholomew’s Hospital and the Royal Free Hospital.
These were then analysed using a new “automated AI technique” to instantly quantify blood flow to the heart and then deliver the measurements to medical teams treating the patients.
Dr Kristopher Knott, from Barts Health NHS Trust and University College London, said: “The predictive power and reliability of the AI was impressive and easy to implement within a patient’s routine care.
“The calculations were happening as the patients were being scanned, and the results were immediately delivered to doctors.
“As poor blood flow is treatable, these better predictions ultimately lead to better patient care, as well as giving us new insights into how the heart works.”