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How artificial intelligence is improving cardiovascular imaging

January 30, 2024
Artificial Intelligence Cardiology
By Kaitlyn Wilkie

The 2023 Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) conference provided insight to the significance of artificial intelligence (AI) as a driving force in improving patient outcomes and unveiled new systems with a focus on cardiovascular imaging improvements.

Innovative systems unveiled at RSNA
Canon showcased two new FDA-pending systems: the Aquilion One Insight and the Aquilion Serve SP, both systems featuring AI enhancements for cardiovascular exams. Siemens showcased their FDA-pending dual-energy system, the Somatom Pro.Pulse. Siemens also showcased their Naeotom Alpha, the first FDA approved photon-counting system, and its benefits for cardiovascular exams. Fujifilm showcased their new 128-slice CT system the FCT iStream, although this system is not yet FDA cleared. GE Healthcare did not reveal a new system at RSNA but showcased the Revolution CT and its cardiac imaging capabilities. The trend for advancements in cardiovascular imaging is not new, but the focus at RSNA highlights its growing need and the industry’s interest.

Market trends and preferences
Based on symplr data, GE CT systems are the most sought after, closely followed by Siemens CT systems. There is an increasing interest in dual-energy systems and systems with greater capability for cardiovascular and lung exams, and many hospitals seek cardiovascular-specific upgrades for their existing installed systems. These are trends that have continued upward since 2021, and cardiovascular imaging capabilities are important considerations for most hospitals when planning their budgets and comparing systems for purchase.

The need for improved cardiovascular imaging is driven by the increasing prevalence of cardiovascular disease in the United States population, and the demand for earlier detection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in America, and the American Heart Association (AHA) reports that 49.2% of American adults have at least one type of cardiovascular disease. As the U.S. population median age continues to increase, hospitals must be prepared for an increase in cardiovascular cases.

Addressing healthcare challenges through AI integration
Healthcare demands continue to grow, and hospital staffing is struggling to meet those demands. Ideally hospitals would increase investment in cardiovascular imaging and care with an increase in the appropriate clinical staff to meet these demands. However, the shortage of properly trained clinical staff is unlikely to be resolved quickly enough to adequately address the growing need for cardiovascular care, so hospitals have turned to the imaging manufacturing industry to deliver technology that can help address the demands. In addition to enhanced hardware and software better suited for cardiovascular exams, vendors are investing in AI programs to improve not just the image quality and reduce the dose of their systems, but to optimize workflow and assist in reading exams. AI is helping reduce burnout in available staff by decreasing the time required to read each exam and optimize workflow through automating processes. Decreasing burnout of staff and improved image quality leads to better patient outcomes, allowing for earlier identification of cardiovascular disease and the subsequent treatment of the identified disease. Earlier identification can also decrease the need for invasive procedures in the catheterization lab.

Many of the advancements in CT technology that are beneficial to cardiovascular disease cases are also beneficial to lung disease cases. According to the American Lung Association, more than 34 million Americans have some type of lung disease. The CDC reports that lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, and more people die from lung cancer than from any other type of cancer. As with cardiovascular diseases, the risk of lung diseases increases with age, and healthcare providers are confronted with many of the same challenges in diagnoses and treating lung diseases as with cardiovascular diseases.

AI is expected to continue to be a driving force in CT advancements and in meeting hospital and patient needs in the foreseeable future.

About the author: Kaitlyn Wilkie, MBA, is advisor for research and analysis with symplr.

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