Neurosurgery asks AI to help answer hard questions about injured brains

One of the medical specialties highly hopeful in AI’s potential to guide care is neurosurgery. That’s because patients with traumatic brain injuries often present care teams and family members with an especially thorny decision:

Operate to potentially save a life or withhold surgery to possibly avoid severe postsurgical disabilities?

Stat News drills into the ways AI can help guide such decisions in a piece posted Aug. 14.

The article’s author, Duke neurosurgeon Jacquelyn Corley, MD, wraps her discussion around the case of an elderly patient who arrived in a trauma center after a car crash. The man was unconscious and showed signs of an accumulating brain bleed.   

“[S]urgery could save the patient’s life, but it could also commit him to a life dependent on a ventilator and a feeding tube, trapped in a coma or with limited brain function,” Corley writes. “Sometimes the quality of life matters more than just the presence of it. The challenge is how can doctors and family members make the right decision in these rushed and emotional moments.”

After breaking down the assistance AI can introduce into these scenarios—and outlining some of its persistent pitfalls, like biased data, privacy concerns and lack of regulations—Corley observes “an emerging consensus that AI could be useful for determining a prognosis for traumatic brain injury patients, and that it could aid clinicians, families and patients in making a shared decision about the best course of treatment.”

AI tools can “help guide the conversation,” she adds, quoting a fellow neurosurgeon, “but doctors need to make sure to use AI technology as a guiding tool only … and not as a replacement for old-fashioned clinical judgment.”

Read the whole thing: