The NHS are piloting a scheme to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to detect heart disease, years before a heart attack could occur. The NHS have reported that they hope up to 350,000 patients could benefit as a result of this new technology each year. It is hoped that patients can be treated before a heart attack occurs, rather than treated reactively after the damage has already been done.
The CaRi-Heart technology, spots minor problems that were not detected on routine scans. The technology looks at inflammation and scarring of the lining of the blood vessels to the heart. Three out of four patients that undergo a coronary CT angiogram (CCTA) scan due to chest pains, are given the all clear, because no narrowing of the blood vessels is identified. However, one in five of those patients will have a heart attack within 10 years.
Heart attacks are often caused by arterial plaques dislodging from the coronary artery and preventing blood from getting to the heart. At present, there is no method for detecting at an early stage, the build-up of plaque which could go on to cause a heart attack. Existing scans can identify blockages in the heart, but not the plaques which could go on to become a blockage. The CaRi Heart technology looks at tissue surrounding the arteries and the inflammation, to gauge whether there may be the presence of a potentially dangerous plaque. Combining this with known risk factors for each patient, provides a greater level of insight to predict a heart attack in the future.
Researchers at Oxford University, along with the British Heart Foundation, used the CaRi Heart to analyse the results from the CCTA scans, which resulted in one in three “low risk” patients, being recategorized as “high risk”. Patients will then be able to commence medication or treatment, including lifestyle changes, to reduce the risk of a fatal heart attack.
The CaRi Heart technology reports existing CAT scans, which means that hospitals will not need to change their existing equipment and patients will not need to attend for additional scans.
At the moment, the AI scheme is being trialled at 15 centres, for patients aged between 40 and 70 who have experienced chest pains. If the scheme is successful, it is hoped that more hospitals can benefit from the technology.
Seven million people in the UK are currently affected by cardiovascular disease and over 100,000 people die from a heart attack each year. We hope that with widespread use of this technology, more patients could be treated and hopefully fatal heart attacks avoided.