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Harnessing AI technology to speed up stroke care and reduce costs

brain scans images on computer

Six NHS trusts serving more than three million people have come together to harness state-of-the-art technology to help clinicians make the right decisions so that more patients recover following stroke.

High quality CT brain scans are being shared quickly and securely within and between hospitals using imaging software which incorporates artificial intelligence (AI). As well as supporting clinical decision-making, the new system is also helping to overcome disruption caused by Covid-19.

The e-Stroke Suite technology is now live in hospitals in Aylesbury, High Wycombe, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Oxford, Reading and Swindon which have established the first integrated regional stroke network of its type in the country in line with a key NHS priority.

Previously, CT brain scans had to be reviewed by a specialist in limited locations. Now they can be seen within a few minutes of being processed – anywhere, any time – and advice given immediately. Reducing the time between the patient arriving in hospital and being referred for treatment is crucial in securing full recovery after having a stroke.

The rapid transfer of high-quality images enables a more coordinated and swift response in identifying whether a patient would benefit from a mechanical thrombectomy (MT), a procedure to remove a blockage in a large blood vessel in the brain which can cause a severe stroke. The NHS Long Term Plan identifies stroke as a clinical priority. It aims to increase use of thrombectomy so that hundreds more people are able to regain their independence following a stroke.

Within the Thames Valley, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) provides specialist stroke care for patients requiring MT. Currently 30-50 patients undergo MT each year in Oxford. Across the Thames Valley it is estimated that 300-400 patients per year could benefit from MT.

The innovative decision support tool helps clinicians to rapidly and accurately decide the type and severity of stroke and the most appropriate treatment. Initially introduced before the pandemic, it has demonstrated added benefits in recent months by enabling new ways of working in a world disrupted by Covid-19. For example, if one hospital is overburdened with Covid-19 another within the regional network can help out by interpreting brain scans without delay.

The e-Stroke Suite technology is developed by Brainomix, an Oxford-based company spun out of the University of Oxford in 2010. The Oxford Academic Health Science Network (Oxford AHSN) has helped to establish the system in the Thames Valley and with the National Consortium of Intelligent Medical Imaging (NCIMI) is supporting the technology’s introduction at more than 20 further hospitals in the South East.