Upstate doctors using artificial intelligence to quickly diagnose and treat strokes

Ask the Expert

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the U.S., and getting fast treatment is important to preventing death and disability from stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When a person is suffering from a stroke, nearly 2 million brain cells are lost every minute, according to Harvard Health.

About 87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked, according to the CDC.

Dr. John Mcburney, Director of Bon Seccours’ stroke program, said the first thing people should do in a stroke episode is call 911 so EMS can quickly get that person to the right hospital for stroke treatment.

“That does cause considerable delays if someone goes to a non-stroke center hospital,” he said.

Once the patient arrives, Dr. McBurney said Bon Secours is now using artificial intelligence called Viz.AI to determine if there’s blood flow blockage, also known as an occlusion.

“When the computer thinks it has detected an occlusion of a large artery, it actually sends out a group alert to all the stroke team members,” he explained.

He said the technology is essentially a supercomputer in the cloud that accesses imaging data from brain scans, analyzes it, and sends it directly to doctors’ phones.

“Imaging data is central to this type of evaluation regardless of what treatment is felt to be most appropriate,” he said. “I would bet that on average having technology like this saves at least 15 minutes for the evaluation of every stroke patient. That would be about 30 billion neurons.”

Using this technology, he said, can even mean the difference between permanently living with a disability and having a full recovery.

“It’s not possible to identify blockage of a large artery that gets amenable to treatment or to determine if there’s salvageable brain without this type of technology,” he said.

Symptoms of a stroke, according to the CDC, include loss of balance, vision problems, facial drooping, arm weakness and difficulty with speech.

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