• MRI scans are expensive, and even dangerous for some patients like pregnant women or children.

  • A new AI-powered algorithm is helping abolish some challenges associated with medical scans, through a technology called ‘virtual native enhancement’.

  • This new technology could slash the time that patients need to spend in an MRI scanner from the standard 30-45 minutes to 15 minutes.

  • This can more than halve the scan cost while producing images that are clearer and easier to interpret.


Copyright: weforum.org – “Here’s how artificial intelligence is improving medical imaging”


Disruptive AI-based imaging technology might replace the injection of dye ‘contrast agents’ usually needed to show clear images of scar of the heart

Imagine you are a medical doctor, faced with a patient with suspected heart disease for symptoms such as chest pain, tightness, or shortness of breath. One way to find out what is happening, and help guide patient prognosis, is to do a cardiovascular MRI scan to look into any heart muscle abnormalities. The scan involves injecting a ‘contrast agent’ (a dye that will improve image contrast and show up scars on images) into a vein in the patient. Contrast-enhanced MRI has been the clinical standard to provide clear scar images, but it’s painful, and makes already expensive MRI scans even more so.

What’s more, this method is limited in patients with significant kidney failure – their kidneys have difficulty clearing the dye from their bodies, sometimes leading to irreversible complications. Some patients will be allergic to the contrast agent, and you might want to limit the use of injectable contrasts in some patients, such as pregnant women and children.

So how do you find out about what might be going on in your patient’s heart in that case, without injecting into them a contrast agent?

It turns out that injecting a contrast agent might not be the only way to get clear MR images to reveal scars in the heart muscle – in 2010, Professor Stefan Piechnik from the Radcliffe Department of Medicine at Oxford University came up with a method to study heart muscle properties, using a contrast-free MRI technique called T1-mapping. It produces an image of the heart with numerical values that change with different diseases.

Such contrast-free MRI contain a lot of information about heart tissue properties, some of which is subtle, or difficult to identify as a scar or other pathologies. As of now, researchers are still exploring the best ways to interpret and display the information from these contrast-free T1-maps, which is one of the reasons that they are not yet widely used by medical doctors.

This is why our cross-disciplinary team of AI scientists, magnetic resonance imaging specialists and cardiologists at the University of Oxford worked to find ways that artificial intelligence (AI) can enhance these contrast-free MRIs, to produce clear images of heart muscle scarring. AI effectively works like “virtual contrasts” to replace conventional intravenous contrasts.[…]

Read more: www.weforum.org