Fatal cardiac arrhythmias are one of the deadliest conditions, but they are difficult to predict and therefore prevent.
But what if an artificial intelligence (AI) system could provide much-needed help? A study published this month in Nature Cardiovascular Research describes an AI that was trained on raw images of patients’ hearts as well as patient histories to predict if and when a patient might die from cardiac arrest.
Detection of patterns invisible to the naked eye
AI is currently reported to be much more effective at this task than a doctor, detecting patterns in cardiac MRIs invisible to the naked eye.
“Sudden cardiac death from arrhythmia accounts for up to 20% of all deaths worldwide and we know little about why it happens or how to know who is at risk,” said SciTechDaily lead author Natalia Trayanova, Murray B. Sachs Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Medicine.
“There are patients at low risk of sudden cardiac death who receive defibrillators that they may not need, and there are high risk patients who do not receive the treatment they need and who could die in the prime of life. What our algorithm can do is determine who is at risk of cardiac death and when it will happen, allowing doctors to decide exactly what needs to be done.
Reveal hidden information
Trayanova and her team used contrast-enhanced heart images that reveal information normally hidden from the simple human eye. Using this technique, the researchers were able to visualize the scar distribution of hundreds of real patients at Johns Hopkins Hospital, giving them critical information about scarring patterns that doctors have not yet been able to access.
“This scarring can be distributed in different ways and it says a lot about a patient’s chances of survival. There’s information hidden in it,” added first author Dan Popescu, a former Johns Hopkins doctoral student.
But is it correct? The algorithms’ predictions were then validated in tests with a cohort of independent patients from 60 health centers across the United States. The team is currently developing other systems to detect more diseases. New AI systems could forever revolutionize the way we diagnose and treat heart disease.