How artificial intelligence can enable rapid COVID-19 lung analysis at UCSD Health

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – With support from Amazon Web Services, health care providers are using AI in a clinical research study aimed at speeding the detection of pneumonia, a condition associated with severe COVID-19

For most patients who have died of COVID-19, the pandemic disease caused by a novel coronavirus, the ultimate cause of death was pneumonia, a condition in which inflammation and fluid buildup make it difficult to breathe. Severe pneumonia often requires lengthy hospital stays in intensive care units and assistance breathing with ventilators — medical devices now in high demand in some cities grappling with a surge of COVID-19 cases.

To quickly detect pneumonia — and therefore better distinguish between COVID-19 patients likely to need more supportive care in the hospital and those who could be followed closely at home — UC San Diego Health radiologists and other physicians are now using artificial intelligence (AI) to augment lung imaging analysis in a clinical research study enabled by Amazon Web Services (AWS).

The new AI capability has so far provided UC San Diego Health physicians with unique insights into more than 2,000 images. In one case, a patient in the Emergency Department who did not have any symptoms of COVID-19 underwent a chest X-ray for other reasons. Yet the AI readout of the X-ray indicated signs of early pneumonia, which was later confirmed by a radiologist. As a result, the patient was tested for COVID-19 and found to be positive for the illness.

“We would not have had reason to treat that patient as a suspected COVID-19 case or test for it, if it weren’t for the AI,” said Christopher Longhurst, MD, chief information officer and associate chief medical officer for UC San Diego Health. “While still investigational, the system is already affecting clinical management of patients.”

Longhurst joined KUSI News via Skype to tell us more about how they are using artificial intelligence to help us during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Categories: Coronavirus, Health, Local San Diego News