Teaching AI to diagnose COVID-19 by analyzing CT scans

dt normal chest x ray x
Credit: Medscape

In China, CT scans are already used as a COVID-19 diagnostic tool when a patient arrives at a healthcare setting with fever and a suspected infection, though this approach has not been widely adopted in the United States. Two studies, published in Nature Medicine and Cell, advance this idea by using artificial intelligence (AI) trained on CT lung scans as a quick diagnostic tool to look for COVID-19 infection in patients who come to the hospital and require medical imaging.

Writing in Cell, researchers at Macau University of Science and Technology used 532,000 CT scans from 3,777 patients in China to train their AI tools, focusing on the tell-tale lesions seen in COVID-19 patient lungs. In pilot studies at several Chinese hospitals the AI model correctly diagnosed pneumonia caused by the coronavirus at least 85 percent of the time when it was applied to a dataset of 417 patients in four separate cohorts. COVID pneumonia was misdiagnosed as non-COVID pneumonia in 7–12 percent of cases. 

Related article:  How does herd immunity work – and could it protect us from COVID-19?

[Researcher Kang] Zhang says at least 10 large hospitals in China, and several in the US, India, Iraq, and Ecuador are using his model to diagnose patients suspected of having COVID-19 pneumonia. His team made its algorithms and training datasets publicly available for other researchers to use.

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