Scientists have created an artificial intelligence system that could help treat patients with sepsis.
The technology, developed by researchers from Imperial College London, was found to predict the best treatment strategy for patients.
Our new AI system was able to analyse a patient’s data – such as blood pressure and heart rate – and decide the best treatment strategy.
The findings, published in the journal Nature Medicine, showed the AI system made more reliable treatment decisions than human doctors.
The team behind the technology say the tool could be used alongside medical professionals, to help doctors decide the best treatment strategy for patients.
Sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, is a potentially fatal complication of an infection, and kills around 44,000 every year in the UK.
In the study, researchers looked back at US patient records from 130 intensive care units over a 15 year period to explore whether the AI system’s recommendations might have been able to improve patient outcomes, compared with standard care. The researchers now hope to trial the system, called AI Clinician, in intensive care units in the UK.
Dr Aldo Faisal, senior author from the Department of Bioengineering and the Department of Computing at Imperial, said: “Sepsis is one of the biggest killers in the UK – and claims six million lives worldwide – so we desperately need new tools at our disposal to help patients. At Imperial, we believe that AI for Healthcare is the solution. Our new AI system was able to analyse a patient’s data – such as blood pressure and heart rate – and decide the best treatment strategy. We found that when the doctor’s treatment decision matched what the AI system recommended, they had a better chance of survival.”
The team used the AI system to assess which particular treatment approach to sepsis was most successful.
Sepsis can cause a drastic drop in blood pressure which can leave organs deprived of blood flow and oxygen, and can ultimately lead to multiple organ failure and death.
To raise blood pressure and keep the heart pumping, doctors give extra fluids, usually in the form of a salt solution, as well as medication that tightens blood vessels and raises blood pressure, called vasopressors.
Professor Anthony Gordon, senior author from the Department of Surgery & Cancer at Imperial explained: “We know that most patients with sepsis need fluid drips and in more severe cases also need vasopressors to maintain blood pressure and blood flow. There is still much debate amongst clinicians about how much fluid to give and when to start vasopressors. There are clinical guidelines but they provide general advice. The AI Clinician is able to learn what is the best option for each individual patient at that moment in time.”
Health Minister Lord O’Shaughnessy added: “Sepsis is a devastating condition which claims far too many lives in the UK. We need to be better at spotting the signs early and artificial intelligence has the potential to do this quickly and more effectively than humans – supporting doctors so they can spend more time with patients.
“We’re already making steps to improve diagnosis with our new sepsis tool, but we must also embrace any new technology solutions that can improve patient care and save lives.”
To help doctors decide which approach would boost a patient’s chance of survival, the research team created an AI system that would assess a patient’s vital signs and recommend the best treatment approach.