AI tool helping to ensure timely treatment for stroke patients
A high-tech tool to help save vital minutes at a critical time is already making a difference for stroke patients in Northumberland and North Tyneside.
Since November, patients at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust have been benefitting from the use of Brainomix’s e-Stroke, a specialist software to analyse images from brain scans, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to recognise abnormalities and highlight them to the specialist within seconds. They can use this information to help them make important decisions about patient care quickly.
It’s true of many serious conditions, but time really is of the essence when someone has had a stroke, as for each minute that passes, it is estimated that two million neurons – the fundamental building blocks of the brain – die. In the first five months of this year, the Trust used Brainomix software almost 60 times.
One possible treatment in this scenario is thrombolysis – a ‘clot-busting’ injection to dissolve the clot and allow blood to flow back into the affected part of the brain and limit damage, which has been a mainstay of stroke care for around 15 years.
Another option, which has been introduced more recently, is thrombectomy, a procedure to physically remove the clot, which requires a transfer to a Newcastle hospital as well as a special – and tricky to read – scan, because the clot is only accessible if it is in certain parts of the brain.
Stuart Huntley, consultant physician in stroke and elderly medicine at the Trust, said: “This new technology supports us to provide the most appropriate emergency care to our stroke patients, reducing the time it takes to assess and treat patients.
“Brainomix is a decision aid and it doesn’t replace human involvement, just supports it. We don’t rely on it completely, but if it fits with our opinion then we can speak to Newcastle. It cuts both time and doubt, and so far, it has proved really helpful and very reliable.”
Another issue in the past has been the reliability of transferring crucial images from brain scans between hospitals, costing time at a crucial moment, but Brainomix has a cloud-based function so everyone has access to the scan analysis immediately.
AI and machine learning are becoming much more prominent and widespread in healthcare, offering additional support for clinicians to treat patients efficiently and effectively.
They are introduced by Northumbria Healthcare where the experts believe that they will have a real impact on patient care, often with the support of the Trust’s digital services team who will liaise with the companies behind the technologies where necessary.
Project manager Kieran Woods is always keen to support the medical teams to deliver new initiatives that will benefit patients while helping staff to do their jobs.
Having worked on Brainomix, he believed that this would probably be the only AI project he would work on for a while, but others quickly found their way onto his to-do list.
“I really feel that these kinds of innovations that use state-of-the-art technology to support our clinical staff to do their jobs will be the way of things more and more going forward,” Kieran said.
Ben O’Connell, media and communications officer
Benjamin.O’Connell@northumbria-healthcare.nhs.uk or 07833 046680.