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Artificial intelligence - the future of diagnosing illness?

View profile for Tom Mooney
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Headway to raise awareness of brain injury related fatigue during Action for Brain Injury Week

It is estimated that there are currently around 850,000 people in the UK who suffer from dementia and that figure is increasing year on year.

Currently it requires the interpretation of several scans and tests, likely performed over a period of many months, to diagnose dementia. However, in an exciting development, experts have this week claimed that artificial intelligence (AI) may be able to diagnose dementia from just one brain scan, even when there are no obvious signs of damage on the brain scan.

By comparing a single brain scan against thousands of scans from patients with dementia, it is thought that the AI is able to make a diagnosis years before symptoms develop and will enable doctors to make very accurate assessments on how the condition is likely to deteriorate and what treatment is required. Crucially it is widely accepted that earlier diagnosis and treatment of dementia can slow down the progression of the decease with symptoms occurring much later in life, or not at all.

A trial will now take place, with 500 people expected to participate in the first year. It is hoped that the outcome will be that doctors have a greater confidence in interpreting scans, leading to more accurate diagnosis for patients. If so, this would have a huge impact on patients and their families, allowing them to have more information about the likely progression of the disease and to help them plan their lives.

With AI already being used to detect eye diseases, make medical diagnoses, and spot early signs of oesophageal cancer, it seems only a matter of time that it becomes increasingly commonly used to detect and monitor other diseases - reducing stress, saving costs, and improving the lives of many.

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