Vancouver researchers lead international study to help predict presence of coronavirus

Apr 29 2020, 5:54 pm

Radiologists at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), the University of British Columbia (UBC), and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute are leading an international study to better predict the presence of COVID-19 based on CT scans, according to officials with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).

In a release, VCH said radiologists, fellows, residents, and UBC medical students are collecting, analyzing, and labelling thousands of CT scans, and in some cases chest X-rays, from COVID-19 patients around the globe, including Canada, the Middle East, South Korea, and Italy.

Information gleaned from the scans will form the basis for an open source artificial intelligence (AI) model to predict the presence, severity and complications of COVID-19 on CT scans.

The model will integrate clinical data to help support and supplement existing tools to improve patient care.

For example, it could help physicians determine whether individuals are best treated at home or whether they may require hospitalization/ventilation. It will not replace current testing.

The model “will also assist in detecting similarities and differences in variations of patterns across different cultural and ethnic groups, and help us understand early and late stages of patterns of disease,” said Dr. Kendall Ho, VGH emergency physician and Academic Director, UBC Cloud Innovation Centre.

Researchers note that it could also help flag those who may ultimately develop permanent lung damage/fibrosis.

“Currently, we can’t predict disease severity and its clinical impact in different patient populations,” said Dr. Nicolaou, who is leading the project with Dr. William Parker, a radiology resident at VGH/UBC. “We’re confident this new tool will help us do that.”

Once developed, the new AI model will be piloted at Vancouver General Hospital with an aim to embed it in routine diagnostic procedures to improve the accuracy of COVID-19 diagnostics.

“We’ve seen patients present in the emergency department with non-typical symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, stroke and acute chest pain, and upon reviewing their CT scans for those conditions, we see the tell-tale haziness of COVID-19 in their lungs,” says Dr. Nicolaou.

Funding for the project is provided by the UBC Community Health and Wellbeing Cloud Innovation Centre (UBC CIC), powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative (DDI).