AIs trained to help with sepsis treatment, fracture diagnosis

AIs trained to help with sepsis treatment, fracture diagnosis
Image of a wrist x-ray.

Enlarge (credit: Bo Mertz)

Treating patients effectively involves a combination of training and experience. That’s one of the reasons that people have been excited about the prospects of using AI in medicine: it’s possible to train algorithms using the experience of thousands of doctors, giving them more information than any single human could accumulate.

This week has provided some indications that software may be on the verge of living up to that promise, as two papers describe excellent preliminary results with using AI for both diagnosis and treatment decisions. The papers involve very different problems and approaches, which suggests that the range of situations where AI could prove useful is very broad.

Choosing treatments

One of the two studies focuses on sepsis, which occurs when the immune system mounts an excessive response to an infection. Sepsis is apparently the third leading cause of death worldwide, and it remains a problem even when the patient is already hospitalized. There are guidelines available for treating sepsis patients, but the numbers suggest there’s still considerable room for improvement. So a small UK-US team decided to see if software could help provide some of that improvement.

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