12 October 2020
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A research team of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and the University of Trento in Italy has been able to translate the expertise of top lung specialists into a software update for ultrasound equipment enhanced with artificial intelligence. Making it possible to determine whether a patient has a serious pulmonary disease, such as Covid-10, based on the images of the pulmonary ultrasound. The software has been developed in such a way as to also allow relative laymen to make a diagnosis.
Ruud van Sloun, Assistant Professor and researcher at TU/e, is working on this solution alongside four PhD students from Eindhoven: “With artificial intelligence, the most important biomarkers of severe lung diseases such as COVID-19 can be accurately determined on a lung ultrasound that visualizes the abnormalities at the edge of the lung and the changes in the structure of the network of pulmonary alveoli and interstitial tissue. And because it’s a program which learns, it becomes even smarter with each new use, allowing it to even more accurately determine whether or not the patient may have COVID-19. We’re very optimistic that this AI technology can be used in hospitals and emergency rooms in the very near future”, says Sloun.
Several parties are working on the solution to use AI technology to detect COVID-19. Some weeks ago, an article was published on the partnership between Holland AI and Maasstad Hospital in Rotterdam. Both parties are jointly developing a technology that uses AI to help assess the CT scans of the lungs. The application gives an indicative score of the volume of the diseased lung tissue.
Following the publication of the research in the leading scientific journal ‘IEEE transactions on Medical Imaging’, the new technology will be offered to hospitals, amongst others the Catharina Hospital Eindhoven. Eventually, the AI software update can be installed directly on ultrasound machines, so that doctors have everything at their disposal, in real-time.The team in Trento, headed by Dr. Libertario Demi, is coordinating this implementation effort.
According to Ruud van Sloun, this technology offers excellent prospects for improving the intake and triage process at hospitals, particularly during the current COVID-19 crisis. “In contrast to the current swab test, for which the results may take up to 24 hours, lung ultrasounds enhanced with AI only take a few minutes.
This solution also offers various advantages over alternative imaging technologies such as CT or MRI: there are many more of the relatively simple and affordable ultrasound machines available, including in developing countries and rural areas. These ultrasounds are portable and manageable, do not use radioactive radiation and have a minimal risk of contamination.
Van Sloun emphasizes the fact that these image analyses support a diagnosis that ultimately has to be made by the doctor. Further research is needed to determine with absolute certainty whether the lung deficiency is caused by COVID-19 or another (severe) lung disease. In addition, more research is needed to be able to perform the complete diagnosis using this intelligent lung ultrasound system.
More information on this new intelligent ultrasound technology can be found here.