MRI x-ray

Addenbrooke’s Hospital AI trial could speed up dementia diagnosis

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS FT’s Addenbrooke’s Hospital has adopted artificial intelligence (AI) in a new trail, to rapidly diagnose early signs of dementia and treat the condition.

It can usually take months to diagnose, and typically requires two or three hospital visits involving a range of CT, PET and MRI scans, as well as invasive lumber punctures.

But the new AI trial is expected to act as a one-stop diagnosis, enabling patients to begin treatment to reduce the effects of the disease more quickly. As a result, this will give families and friends more time to put long term preparations in place. The technology also has the potential to predict the future of the condition, which could result in better patient outcomes.

The QMIN-MC trial uses a machine learning algorithm developed by Professor Zoe Kourtzi, research lead at the Alan Turing Institute. The algorithm trains itself to diagnose patients by looking at MRI brain scans to identify patterns in one brain scan. It then combines these findings with the results of standard memory tests.

Addenbrooke’s Consultant and Clinical Lead for the trial, Dr Timothy Rittman, explained: “Traditionally, when we look at patient scans we are looking for patterns to be able to help us exclude things like strokes and brain tumours. The computer can do this much more comprehensively than any human, helping to give us not only a more accurate diagnosis, but also a prognosis as well. With a better prognosis we can identify how quickly a patient is moving away from the normal pattern of the disease and amend their treatment and care accordingly.”

Around 80 patients have taken part in the trial, which is run by Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH), Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS FT, and two NHS trusts in Brighton. It aims to test how it works in a clinical setting, together with conventional ways of treating dementia.

If the results of the trial are successful, the algorithm could be rolled out to thousands more patients across the country, with the potential of saving the NHS half a billion pounds over the next five years.

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NHE May/June 2024

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