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AI for Ultrasound: Improving Diagnostics and Patient Outcomes

The digital age of ultrasound is changing the way physicians think about and apply sonography for critical diagnoses. Ultrasound hardware and software are evolving, and today’s technology incorporates cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) for easier, more accurate, and more powerful diagnostic imaging.

Faster, clearer, more accessible ultrasound

Ultrasound equipment is continuously evolving, but software innovations are improving imaging and making ultrasound diagnostics more accessible.

Take, for example, point-of-care ultrasound (PoCUS). Traditional ultrasound exams require a trained sonographer to collect images for radiologist review, but PoCUS technology allows virtually anyone to perform a scan while AI interprets images in real-time. It enables faster and more informed decision-making — especially at crucial diagnostic and treatment junctions.

AI innovation takes many forms

AI isn’t a single technology but a collection of applications. In ultrasound, AI innovation takes many forms, including:

  • Machine learning (ML). Machine learning collects data and learns to identify patterns with minimal human intervention. For example, an AI equipped with ML might tell a physician to move the probe to get a better view of an affected area. Machine learning makes it easier for users to operate diagnostic equipment and collect good data — and it improves with continuous use.
  • Natural language processing (NLP). NLP plays several roles in linking imaging to medical diagnosis. AI learns to link visual anomalies to medical terminology, and it can tell sonographers and physicians precisely what they’re looking at.
  • Image recognition. AI can be taught to recognize certain image components — such as internal organs and any anomalies affecting them — to improve the efficacy of imaging and the accuracy of diagnosis. In one small study, AI has already shown the ability to identify fetal anomalies with up to 93% accuracy.
  • Big data processing. Big data processing analyzes massive data sets from disparate sources, and allows ultrasound software to review high volumes of data at an impressively fast rate. This behind-the-scenes feature of AI supports front-facing innovations such as NLP and image recognition.
  • Analytics. AI analytics compare known data to real-time ultrasound images. The feedback from new imaging allows physicians to take better images and perform repetitive diagnostic tasks more quickly. AI analytics are especially useful for 3D and volumetric ultrasound scans.

AI and ultrasound advances

AI-enabled ultrasound machines allow physicians to diagnose conditions quickly and accurately without sending patients to a specialized imaging center. AI guides users through the ultrasound scan while comparing real-time imaging to millions of data points in multiple existing data sets. The result is more refined diagnostic imaging from the moment the probe begins transmitting data.

For physicians, AI is creating more confidence in diagnoses. Internists are increasingly turning to ultrasound because they trust it, and there are fewer barriers to access and application. AI advances ultrasound imaging in many ways, including:

  • Reducing the learning curve with less training for better imaging
  • Improving image quality and accuracy by automatically cleaning up artifacts
  • Offering insights beyond imaging by comparing massive amounts of data in seconds
  • Driving faster diagnoses with automation backed by proven models
  • Improving image clarity by providing real-time diagnostic suggestions

These advances all add up to a higher standard of patient care across medical specialties. From PoCUS technology for emergent and rural care to more accurate volumetric imaging of dense tissue, AI is setting new standards for effective ultrasound imaging and accurate diagnosis.

The future of ultrasound

The future of ultrasound is AI automation, education, and continuous innovation. AI helps every clinician perfect their ultrasound technique, even without extensive training. This improves access for patients and enables faster diagnoses for serious conditions.

During and after an exam, automation features improve the accuracy and clarity of ultrasound imaging. AI analyzes data in real time and learns with every use to continuously improve the insights ultrasound imaging provides. AI technology is not designed to replace sonographers, but with its capability to facilitate better assessments and treatment decisions, it is on track to become a key teaching, testing, and validation tool.

AI-enabled ultrasound offers extensive benefits for patients, providers, and diagnostic integrity. With this powerful technology, clinicians can reach faster, more accurate diagnoses to drive a better patient experience and a higher standard of care.

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October 15, 2022 Uncategorized