Artificial intelligence could improve stroke and dementia diagnosis, says research study based at Charing Cross Hospital

Artificial intelligence has detected one of the commonest causes of dementia and stroke more accurately than current methods, a study has found. 

New software, created by scientists at Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh, has been able to identify and measure the severity of small vessel disease, one of the commonest causes of stroke and dementia.  

Small vessel disease (SVD) is a very common neurological disease in older people that reduces blood flow to the deep white matter connections of the brain, damaging and eventually killing the brain cells.  It causes stroke and dementia as well as mood disturbance. 

The study, published in Radiology today, took place at Charing Cross Hospital. Researchers hope the new technology will help clinicians to administer the best treatment to patients more quickly in emergency settings - and predict a person’s likelihood of developing dementia. The development may also pave the way for more personalised medicine.

Dr Paul Bentley, consultant neurologist and lead author at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said:

“This is the first time that machine learning methods have been able to accurately measure a marker of small vessel disease in patients presenting with stroke or memory impairment who undergo CT scanning. Our technique is consistent and achieves high accuracy relative to an MRI scan - the current gold standard technique for diagnosis.  This could lead to better treatments and care for patients in everyday practice.

“Current methods to diagnose the disease through CT or MRI scans can be effective, but it can be difficult for doctors to diagnose the severity of the disease by the human eye.   The importance of our new method is that it allows for precise and automated measurement of the disease.  This also has applications for widespread diagnosis and monitoring of dementia, as well as for emergency decision-making in stroke.”

The team are now using similar methods to measure the amount of brain shrinkage and other types of conditions commonly diagnosed on brain CT.

The study was funded by a National Institute for Health Research i4i Invention for Innovation award, and a National Institute for Health Research Imperial Biomedical Research Centre grant (NIHR BRC).