Robots can diagnose heart problems in as little as four seconds, tests have shown, as a review of artificial intelligence (AI) found machines are now as good at spotting illness as doctors.
Analysing a patient’s heart function on a cardiac MRI scan currently takes doctors around 13 minutes.
But a new trial by University College London (UCL) showed an AI programme could read the scans in a fraction of the time with equal accuracy.
There are approximately 150,000 such scans performed in the UK each year, and researchers estimate that fully utilising AI to read them could save 54 clinician-days at each cardiac centre per year.
It is hoped that AI – where computer systems are able to learn from data to identify new patterns with minimal human intervention – will transform medicine by helping doctors spot diseases such heart disease and cancer quicker and earlier.
However, most scans are still read by specially trained doctors.
In the new study, Published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, researchers trained a neural network to read the cardiac MRI scans using results from nearly 600 patients.
The team then tested the system’s precision against an expert and trainee on 110 separate patients from multiple centers.
They found no significant difference in accuracy.
It comes as the first ever systematic review of AI in medicine, published in the Lancet Digital Health, found that machines are now equally as good at diagnosis as doctors in a number of fields.
Dr Charlotte Manisty, who led the UCL research, said: “Cardiovascular MRI offers unparalleled image quality for assessing heart structure and function.
“This indicates that automated techniques are at least as good as humans, with the potential soon to be ‘super-human’–transforming clinical and research measurement precision.”
The Lancet study, conducted by doctors at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, reviewed 14 studies which compared the performance of AI and health professionals.
“However, current manual analysis remains basic and outdated.
Professor Alastair Denniston said: “Within those handful of high-quality studies, we found that deep learning could indeed detect diseases ranging from cancers to eye diseases as accurately as health professionals.
“But it’s important to note that AI did not substantially out-perform human diagnosis.”