All surgeries have inherent risks depending on the procedure, both during and after the operation. However, surgeons can utilize AI to predict specific risks at a highly individual level, allowing the patient and doctor to make more informed decisions and better prepare for complications.


SwissCognitive Guest Blogger: Zachary Amos – “AI Helps Doctors Predict Surgical Risk”


SwissCognitive_Logo_RGBAll surgeries have inherent risks depending on the specific procedure, the patient’s overall health and other factors. However, research suggests artificial intelligence (AI) could predict an individual’s risk level. This allows the person undergoing surgery to discuss the information with their care team and make a more informed decision. Here is a closer look at how AI is changing the surgical risk landscape. 

Determining the Need for Alcohol Consumption Changes

A patient may want an alcoholic beverage to celebrate the night before a long-awaited surgery. However, alcohol can cause surgical site infections and reduce the blood’s clotting ability. Safety threats also increase when people habitually drink. 

Research suggests AI can scan a patient’s entire medical record to look for signs of risky alcohol use, even without someone receiving an alcoholism diagnosis. The approach could predict which people have higher surgical risks due to poor consumption habits. 

A team trained the AI algorithm using data from 100 surgical patients. They found AI was as accurate as humans when flagging alcohol-related risks in people’s medical information. It found risky drinking signs in 87% of the patients humans had also identified with problematic consumption habits. However, only 29% had alcohol-related diagnosis codes in their charts. 

Even a moderate amount of daily alcohol use can make surgical complications more likely. Finding effective ways to conduct consumption-related assessments before scheduled operations is essential. Surgical teams can then determine if patients must cut down on how much they drink beforehand or if rescheduling the procedure is necessary.

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Surgeons may also utilize AI during operations if the procedure involves surgical robots. These advanced machines make things safer by minimizing incision sizes and increasing the surgical team’s ability to concentrate. However, the more specialists know before a procedure occurs, the more they can do to keep the patient safe. 

Assessing Postoperative Risks With Health Records

Risks can occur during and after surgery, which surgeons can limit by carefully planning each procedure and following checklists. The World Health Organization developed its first surgery checklist in 2002, recommending hospitals start using it in 2009. The guidelines include standardized instructions to reduce surgical complications.

However, researchers determined AI could cut risks following a patient’s procedure. They developed an algorithm based on 74,417 major surgical procedures performed on 58,236 adult patients over seven years.

The AI system pulled significant amounts of data from patients’ anonymized health records, with the information going back as far as one year before their procedures. The results predicted someone’s likelihood of mortality or prolonged intensive care stays. It also analyzed the probability of the patient facing eight postoperative conditions, including sepsis and acute kidney injuries. 

Researchers determined the system was as accurate as surgeons in predicting numerous patient risks, such as neurological complications and the prolonged need for mechanical ventilation. Additionally, the AI was even better than humans at predicting venous blood clots.

Creating Accessibility to At-Home Care

Many people are interested in how AI could reduce people’s medical risks at home. The technology already increases access through remote care options.

Telehealth and various medical devices support people’s operation recoveries, allowing patients to communicate with their medical team and alert specialists to fluctuating vital signs or more dangerous characteristics.

Doctors will immediately know if the patient requires an in-person visit or can safely continue recovering at home. Getting up-to-the-minute details creates better overall awareness and enables specialists to track trends.

AI: A Worthwhile Addition to the Surgical Toolbox

Successful surgeries have several necessary elements, from expertise to teamwork to attention to detail. However, these examples show AI can also be invaluable in keeping patients safer during and after their operations.

About the Author:

Zachary AmosZachary Amos is the Features Editor at ReHack, where he writes about artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and other technology-related topics.