Jul 13 2021

Artificial Intelligence and Anesthesiology: New Tool for Better Accuracy

The use of AI in medical imaging continues to expand, and a new tool can help anesthesiologists deliver quicker and more accurate care.

Healthcare systems are adopting new ways to use artificial intelligence to improve workflows, patient care and more, from chatbots that screen for COVID-19 symptoms to more accurate cancer diagnoses.

In the field of anesthesiology, Intel and Samsung Medison recently collaborated, using AI to create a tool that makes administering a nerve block faster and more accurate. NerveTrack is a real-time nerve tracking ultrasound feature created using Intel’s OpenVINO toolkit, says Alex Flores, medical imaging director of Intel’s health and life sciences division. The toolkit helps organizations develop apps and platforms that use AI to emulate human vision.

Anesthesiologists are using NerveTrack to help identify the median and ulnar nerves in patients’ arms, where nerve blocks are often injected before surgeries and to relieve recovery pain.

New Levels of Nerve Scanning Accuracy

NerveTrack offers support similar to the way self-parking cars help drivers who struggle with parallel parking, Flores says. With some nerves as small as 2 millimeters in diameter, it can be time-consuming and difficult to identify them with an ultrasound machine.

“What anesthesiologists find is twofold,” Flores says. “One, they may need some assistance in finding that nerve block within that forearm. Or two, it’s very tedious, and they want to automate that process so they can spend more time working with a patient.”

The new technology reduces the possibility of complications and cuts scanning time by up to 30 percent compared with using a regular ultrasound, Flores says. It also increases the accuracy of scanning the nerve by 20 percent.

Source: Philips, “Future Health Index 2021: United States,” May 2021

“Essentially, the way it works is Samsung has a data set — a lot of different images that it uses to create an algorithm or a model that helps detect the actual nerve block in the arm,” Flores says.

Though NerveTrack is a nascent technology, sonographers, medical students and residents at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’s teaching hospital are already using the tool. The Pain Management Center at Seoul National University Hospital in South Korea has also deployed the technology.

Using high-performance computing and AI technologies in medical imaging is one of the best ways to help healthcare professionals worldwide, says Dr. Won-Chul Bang, vice president of product strategy at Samsung Medison.

“As AI is rapidly growing in other fields, its application is increasing in medical imaging as well,” he says. “AI can be used for workflow simplification, image quality enhancement and to support the clinical decision.”

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AI Growth and Usage in Medical Imaging

The healthcare industry has expanded its use of AI in medical imaging and other functions, including clinical decision support, says Mutaz Shegewi, IDC’s research director for provider IT transformation strategies. “From a diagnostic standpoint, you have AI being increasingly used to see what clinicians can’t see in medical imaging to be able to identify certain lesions, certain manifestations of disease,” he adds.

When it comes to clinical decision support, he says the benefits of AI to physicians and patients could be immense. “If AI can tap into the global evidence base and convey that know-ledge into a real-time process that complements physicians’ own intelligence, the benefits are tremendous for the patient in terms of diagnosis, the clinical course of management and the treatment being more likely to be effective, affordable and feasible,” Shegewi says.

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