AI measures blood flow to predict death, heart attack—and is more accurate than humans

Researchers have used AI technology to predict a patient’s chance of death, heart attack or stroke better than human doctors, sharing their findings in a new study in Circulation.

The team achieved this breakthrough by, for the first time ever, using AI to instantly measure and evaluate blood flow. In the past, such assessments have been performed using such techniques as cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging. The images, however, were “incredibly difficult” to interpret in a timely manner.

The study’s authors explored data from more than 1,000 patients who underwent routine CMR scans. AI-generated results were then compared with the patients’ outcomes—including death, heart attack, stroke and heart failure—to measure the technique’s effectiveness.

“AI is moving out of the computer labs and into the real world of healthcare, carrying out some tasks better than doctors could do alone,” corresponding author James C. Moon, MD, University College of  London (UCL) Institute of Cardiovascular Science, said in a prepared statement. “We have tried to measure blood flow manually before, but it is tedious and time-consuming, taking doctors away from where they are needed most, with their patients.”

“The predictive power and reliability of the AI was impressive and easy to implement within a patient's routine care,” first author Kristopher D. Knott, MBBS, also of the UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, said in the same statement. “The calculations were happening as the patients were being scanned, and the results were immediately delivered to doctors. As poor blood flow is treatable, these better predictions ultimately lead to better patient care, as well as giving us new insights into how the heart works.”