Brain MRI

AI software used to help speed up treatment for stroke patients

Northumbria Healthcare NHS FT have been offering a specialist software to analyse images from brain scans, using artificial intelligence (AI), since November. The technology is able to recognise brain abnormalities and highlight them to the specialist within seconds.

The tool is expected to save time during critical moments for stroke patients. Information collected from the scans will help clinicians make important patient care decisions as quickly as possible.

When it comes to patients who have suffered from a stroke, time is crucial. For each minute that passes, it is estimated that two million neurons die. The trust used the tech in the first five months of this year, almost 60 times.

Thrombolysis is a treatment that has been the main drug used for stroke care for around 15 years, which would possibly be used in this scenario. Through this method an injection would be used to dissolve the clot and allow blood to flow back into the affected part of the brain, limiting damage.

Thrombectomy is another option which was introduced recently, where the clot is physically removed. Some of the issues with this method have been the fact this it requires a transfer to a Newcastle hospital as well as a special – and tricky to read – scan. This is because the clot is only accessible if it is in certain parts of the brain.

Another factor has been the unreliability of transferring crucial images from brain scans between hospitals, which has cost time during crucial moments. The software has a cloud-based function, which is thought to resolve this through providing everyone access to the scan analysis immediately.

Stuart Huntley, Consultant Physician in stroke and elderly medicine at the trust, said: “This new technology supports us to provide the most appropriate emergency care to our stroke patients, reducing the time it takes to assess and treat patients.

“(Our partner) is a decision aid and it doesn’t replace human involvement, just supports it. We don’t rely on it completely, but if it fits with our opinion then we can speak to Newcastle. It cuts both time and doubt, and so far, it has proved really helpful and very reliable.”

AI and machine learning is something that has become utilised even more across healthcare. Some of the benefits have included providing additional support for clinicians to treat patients more efficiently and effectively.

Experts at the trust believe this this type of technology will have a real impact on patient care.

Project Manager, Kieran Woods, said: “I really feel that these kinds of innovations that use state-of-the-art technology to support our clinical staff to do their jobs will be the way of things more and more going forward.”

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