An artificial intelligence tool that performs better than doctors at predicting if patients will have a heart attack, could save thousands of lives a year.
According to The Times:
The technology from the University of Oxford, based on 40,000 patients in UK hospitals, can spot people with early heart problems that are missed on CT scans reviewed by the human eye.
It would mean those people could start preventive treatment, such as statins, cutting their risk of suffering or dying from a heart attack or stroke during the next decade. The AI tool is already being piloted in five UK hospitals, and researchers hope it can be rolled out further.
Each year in the UK about 350,000 people have a cardiac CT scan, which is the standard test to identify narrowings or blockages in the coronary arteries.
The research, presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions, in Philadelphia, found the AI tool could improve treatment for almost half.
Three quarters of people having a CT scan, typically after experiencing chest pain, will show no clear sign of significant narrowing, and patients will often be reassured and discharged.
But many of them will go on to die from a heart attack, because small, undetectable narrowings may break up if they are inflamed and block the arteries.
Researchers trained the AI tool on data from 40,000 patients to look at changes in the fat around inflamed arteries, and information on narrowings and other clinical risk factors, to predict someone’s risk of heart attacks or strokes.
Among those with no obstructions to their arteries, those with the highest levels of inflammation in their blood vessels had a more than tenfold higher risk of dying from heart-related problems compared to those with lower levels of inflammation.
The AI tool was tested on a further 3,393 patients over almost eight years and found the AI software was able to accurately predict the risk of a heart attack.
AI-generated risk scores were then presented to doctors for 744 patients, with 45 per cent having their treatment plans altered by doctors as a result.
The researchers found the tool was cost-effective, when compared to standard NHS care, and estimated it could lead to 20 per cent fewer heart attacks and 8 per cent fewer cardiac deaths and strokes, among those having the test.
Professor Charalambos Antoniades, who led the research at Oxford, said: “Our study found that some patients presenting in hospital with chest pain — who are often reassured and sent back home — are at high risk of having a heart attack in the next decade, even in the absence of any sign of disease in their heart arteries.
Here we demonstrated that providing an accurate picture of risk to clinicians can alter and potentially improve the course of treatment for many heart patients.”