Using artificial intelligence to predict heart attacks

Reporter: Amy Oshier Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Using artificial intelligence, doctors at Lee Health may be able to predict the likelihood that someone will have a heart attack.

The new technology is available to people who want to read about their cardiovascular risk.

Bob Frieburger has a family history of heart issues.

“I have a sister that passed away, have heart disease in her 40s. My mother had a couple of mitral valve replacements during the course of her lifetime,” said Freiburger.

So, when his cardiologist told him about some new tech using A.I. to measure cardiovascular risks, he was pumped.

“This new program was about to launch. And he described it to me. And I said, Well, gee, I want to do that,” said Freiburger.

artificial intelligence
Using artificial intelligence to predict heart attack risks. CREDIT: WINK News

It works off a CT scan that looks inside the coronary arteries. The software takes the output and applies A.I. analysis. Lee Health cardiologist Richard Chazal says it offers a view of a heart like nothing they’ve seen.

“The artificial intelligence program that we’re utilizing looks at plaque. And it breaks it down into the types of plaque because some types of plaque are more dangerous than others,” said Dr. Chazal. “And it also measures that down to the cubic millimeter. So when we’re using this AI program, we’re able to say to a person, here’s exactly how much plaque you have.”

Using computer intelligence is a big step forward. In the past, doctors might use a stress test that looked for present blockages. But it couldn’t tell them where dangerous plaque was starting to accumulate and whether it was likely to cause a heart attack in the future.

“We’ve identified a number of people that were at high risk for developing a heart attack in the not-too-distant future,” said Chazal. “We can’t be certain when that might have occurred or for sure if it would have, but with a high likelihood statistically of developing a heart attack within the next several years. And in virtually every case, they were unaware of this. Totally unaware.”

The snapshot of Bob’s heart shows that he’s at low risk for a heart attack, news that is a relief.

“Knowing that that could be me if I didn’t know the condition of my heart that gave me tremendous level of comfort,” said Freiburger.

“We were able, with Bob to sit down, he and I with his scans together and look at them, and say this is how much plaque is there. This is what level of risk this represents. And then put together a plan based on lifestyle and some medications to try and prevent it from progressing in the future,” said Chazal.

It’s the future of medicine, preventing problems before they become reality.

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