Artificial intelligence could be used to predict if a person is at risk of having a heart attack up to 10 years in the future, a study has found.
The technology could save thousands of lives while improving treatment for almost half of patients, researchers at the University of Oxford said.
The study, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), looked at how AI might improve the accuracy of cardiac CT scans, which are used to detect blockages or narrowing in the arteries.
Prof Charalambos Antoniades, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the BHF and director of the acute multidisciplinary imaging and interventional centre at Oxford, said: “Our study found that some patients presenting in hospital with chest pain – who are often reassured and sent back home – are at high risk of having a heart attack in the next decade, even in the absence of any sign of disease in their heart arteries.
“Here we demonstrated that providing an accurate picture of risk to clinicians can alter, and potentially improve, the course of treatment for many heart patients.”
About 350,000 people in the UK have a CT scan each year but, according to the BHF, many patients later die of heart attacks due to their failure in picking up small, undetectable narrowings.
Researchers analysed the data of more than 40,000 patients undergoing routine cardiac CT scans at eight UK hospitals, with a median follow-up time of 2.7 years.
The AI tool was tested on a further 3,393 patients over almost eight years and was able to accurately predict the risk of a heart attack. AI-generated risk scores were then presented to medics for 744 patients, with 45% having their treatment plans altered by medics as a result.
They found those whose results showed “significant” narrowing of the arteries were more likely to have a serious heart attack, but twice as many patients with no significant narrowings also went on to have heart attacks, which were sometimes fatal.
Prof Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the BHF, said the research “shows the valuable role AI-based technology can play” in identifying those most at risk of future heart attacks. - Guardian