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AI Algorithm Detects COVID-19 in Lungs by Analyzing CT Scans With 90% Accuracy

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 01 Oct 2020
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A new study has shown that artificial intelligence (AI) can be nearly as accurate as a physician in diagnosing COVID-19 in the lungs. The study shows that the new technique can also overcome some of the challenges of current testing.

In the study, researchers have demonstrated that the algorithm co-developed by the University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL, USA) could be trained to classify COVID-19 pneumonia in computed tomography (CT) scans with up to 90% accuracy, as well as correctly identify positive cases 84% of the time and negative cases 93% of the time.

CT scans offer a deeper insight into COVID-19 diagnosis and progression as compared to the often-used reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR, tests. These tests have high false negative rates, delays in processing and other challenges. Another benefit to CT scans is that they can detect COVID-19 in people without symptoms, in those who have early symptoms, during the height of the disease and after symptoms resolve. However, CT is not always recommended as a diagnostic tool for COVID-19 because the disease often looks similar to influenza-associated pneumonias on the scans. The new UCF co-developed algorithm can overcome this problem by accurately identifying COVID-19 cases, as well as distinguishing them from influenza, thus serving as a great potential aid for physicians.

To perform the study, the researchers trained a computer algorithm to recognize COVID-19 in lung CT scans of 1,280 multinational patients from China, Japan and Italy. Then they tested the algorithm on CT scans of 1,337 patients with lung diseases ranging from COVID-19 to cancer and non-COVID pneumonia. When they compared the computer’s diagnoses with ones confirmed by physicians, they found that the algorithm was extremely proficient in accurately diagnosing COVID-19 pneumonia in the lungs and distinguishing it from other diseases, especially when examining CT scans in the early stages of disease progression.

“We demonstrated that a deep learning-based AI approach can serve as a standardized and objective tool to assist healthcare systems as well as patients,” said Ulas Bagci, an assistant professor in UCF’s Department of Computer Science and a co-author of the study who helped lead the research. “It can be used as a complementary test tool in very specific limited populations, and it can be used rapidly and at large scale in the unfortunate event of a recurrent outbreak.”

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