Point-of-Care Ultrasound Makes a New Imaging Modality Available to Clinicians

By Katy Mena-Berkley
Thursday, May 14, 2020

Caption AI, the first artificial intelligence-guided medical imaging acquisition system, enables healthcare professionals not trained in echocardiography to acquire ultrasound images of the heart.

In a perfect world, trained echocardiographers would be available whenever and wherever a cardiac evaluation is necessary. However, reality often presents a different scenario. Enter Caption AI, an enabling technology designed to fill that void.

“This technology may be used in scenarios where there is shortage of staff, such as during a pandemic; lack of staff during a late night in the emergency room; or in a remote location, like at the patient bedside,” says Shahram Vaezy, PhD, biomedical engineer with the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Also, it is useful in situations where an immediate diagnosis and intervention is needed without the delay associated with calling an echocardiographer — who may be busy with another patient or not on the premises — to the bedside.”

The software for this technology offers real-time, on-screen prescriptive guidance that demonstrates how to capture standard images of the heart by maneuvering an imaging probe on a patient’s chest, close to the heart, and includes instructions for 10 standard echocardiography views. The software also offers a numerical approximation of image quality that may be useful when working to standardize ultrasound cardiac images and reduce variability that may occur with different operators of the equipment. It relies on deep-learning methodology, in which thousands of high- and low-quality images are used to train a neural network to identify and grade quality of images as well as errors that may be corrected.

Real-World Benefits of Artificial Intelligence

Thanks to AI-guided medical imaging acquisition, ultrasound imaging of the heart is more accessible and convenient for patients, as it may be performed outside of a traditional echocardiography setting. A healthcare professional qualified to interpret the results may then review and evaluate the images.

“The quality metric provides an objective basis for readers to determine how confident they are about findings they report based on those images,” says Brian Garra, MD, diagnostic radiologist with the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “It also helps them to determine what additional echocardiographic imaging may be necessary.”

When scanning is performed traditionally, the echocardiographer may be able to expedite the process of scanning and improve image quality.

An increasing number of manufacturers are developing point-of-care-ultrasound devices in which transducers are attached to a mobile processing/display platform, like a cellphone.

“This technological development has made it possible for availability of ultrasound imaging to a large number of healthcare professionals who may not have received training in sonography,” Dr. Garra says. “As the clinical applications of ultrasound are continually increasing, there is a clinical need for technologies that provide a tool for the nonexpert to acquire images. I think the use of these devices will be an increasing part of normal clinical care.”