Strokes are the fifth-leading cause of death in America, killing about 140,000 Americans every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sometimes referred to as a “brain attack,” a stroke is an interruption of blood supply to the brain caused by a blocked or ruptured blood vessel.
In the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge, Advocate Lutheran General Hospital is using software driven by artificial intelligence to detect strokes and respond to them more quickly than previously possible.
The software, called Viz.ai, was developed by a company based in San Francisco and Tel Aviv. Using deep learning and an algorithm, Viz.ai analyzes brain scans, like MRIs or CT scans, to detect signs of a stroke and immediately notify the hospital’s stroke team via mobile phone.
Dr. Demetrius Lopes, director of Advocate Health Care’s stroke program, said the technology is saving lives by drastically reducing the time it takes to detect a stroke.
“That workflow, normally, is someone would go to a hospital ER room, wait for a radiologist, then a specialist would be called – that can take 45 minutes, sometimes beyond an hour,” Lopes said. “This whole process has been cut down to about six minutes.”
When it comes to strokes, timely action can mean life or death.
When a stroke goes untreated, the brain ages about 3.5 years with each passing hour, Lopes said. He said the sensitivity and accuracy of the AI software helps standardize effective medical care by rivaling the country’s best radiologists – doctors who examine medical imaging for treatment and diagnoses.
But Lopes doesn’t think the software will lead to a downsizing of hospital staff or automation of ERs.
“The more you learn about how this works – I feel we’ll be the drivers of this,” Lopes said. “This is the right thing to do for our patients. As physicians, our role will be how to deploy this to help our patients the best.”
Lopes joins “Chicago Tonight” on Thursday to discuss the technology.
Note: This story will be updated with video.