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Intelligent Lung Ultrasound Provides Crucial Support for COVID-19 Testing Within Minutes

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 03 Jun 2021
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Image: Column 1 and 2 show lung ultrasounds without and with annotated COVID-19 biomarkers (orange: moderate, red: severe). Columns 3 and 4 respectively show the semantic segmentations and contours of COVID-19 markers by means of deep learning analysis (Photo courtesy of Eindhoven University of Technology)
Image: Column 1 and 2 show lung ultrasounds without and with annotated COVID-19 biomarkers (orange: moderate, red: severe). Columns 3 and 4 respectively show the semantic segmentations and contours of COVID-19 markers by means of deep learning analysis (Photo courtesy of Eindhoven University of Technology)
Using fairly simple ultrasound machines that are enhanced with artificial intelligence (AI) could make it possible to establish whether a patient is suffering from severe lung disease, possibly COVID-19, within a few minutes.

A research team at Eindhoven University of Technology (Eindhoven, Netherlands) and the University of Trento (Trento, Italy) has been able to translate the expertise of top lung specialists into a software update for these ultrasound machines. This enables relative laymen to interpret the images in a manageable and comparatively inexpensive manner, just like the world’s best lung experts. The solution also offers various advantages over alternative imaging technologies such as CT or MRI: there are many more machines available (including in developing countries and rural areas), these are portable and manageable, do not use radioactive radiation (as with CT), have a minimal risk of contamination through the use of a cover around the sensor, and are comparatively cheap.

Additionally, these image analyses support a diagnosis that ultimately has to be made by the doctor. Further research is needed to determine with absolute certainty whether the lung deficiency is caused by COVID-19 or another lung disease such as severe pneumonia. In addition, more research is needed to be able to perform the complete diagnosis using this intelligent lung ultrasound system. The new technology will be offered to hospitals and the software update could eventually be installed directly on ultrasound machines, so that doctors have everything at their disposal, in real-time.

“With artificial intelligence, the most important biomarkers of severe lung diseases such as COVID-19 can be accurately determined on a lung ultrasound that visualizes the abnormalities at the edge of the lung and the changes in the structure of the network of pulmonary alveoli and interstitial tissue,” said Ruud van Sloun, Assistant Professor and researcher at Eindhoven University of Technology. “And because it’s a program which learns, it becomes even smarter with each new use, allowing it to even more accurately determine whether or not the patient may have COVID-19. We’re very optimistic regarding its quick application in hospitals and emergency rooms.”

Related Links:
Eindhoven University of Technology
University of Trento



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