FDA okays Israeli company’s AI to detect coronavirus in CT scans

With a downloadable update to existing software, an Israeli company says it is poised to help American hospitals spot silent COVID-19 carriers, and help fight transmission between patients.

The US Food and Drug Administration has given Tel Aviv-based Aidoc the green light to start alerting radiologists if they have scanned somebody who, unknowingly, has coronavirus.

The company’s artificial intelligence program powers computers in the radiology departments of more than 100 American hospitals, and in two to three weeks it will start to raise alerts if a patient who just underwent scanning has signs of COVID-19.

The alerts will prompt patients to seek treatment, and to protect others by entering isolation, and allow hospitals to shut down the scanning rooms for disinfection before others contract the virus, said Reut Yalon, Aidoc’s head of product.

A computer using Aidoc’s technology reports findings on a CT scan (courtesy of Aidoc)

“Part of the reason that doctors are hesitant about sending patients for CT scans at the moment is because of the possibility of cross-contamination,” she told The Times of Israel. “We’re able to ensure that no one will be infected from the scanner.”

For patients, she said it creates a “safety net” they wouldn’t otherwise have to quickly catch coronavirus cases they are not aware about. “We’re expediting patient care which is huge for COVID-19,” she said.

CT scans are known to be effective for spotting coronavirus, based on the presence of so-called ground glass opacities in the lungs, patterns which indicate abnormalities. But the problem is that doctors can end up analyzing scans hours or days after they take place. By this point, Yalon noted, other patients may have been contaminated in the scanning room, and time for treatment and isolation of the infected person will have been lost.

Reut Yalon, head of product at Aidoc (courtesy of Aidoc)

Aidoc provides artificial intelligence that alerts radiologists to conditions like intracranial hemorrhaging and pulmonary embolism before doctors get around to reading the scans, prompting them to flag the patient for priority attention.

The functionality to detect coronavirus is being added, by downloadable update, to the computers of American hospitals that use Aidoc’s system, after the FDA agreed to its deployment in the COVID-19 fight.

US hospitals will be the first to use Aidoc’s coronavirus detection capability, but the company will soon roll it out to many of the 200 hospitals that use its system in Israel, Europe, and South America.

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Written by Aakash Malu


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