Abbott launches AI-powered coronary OCT imaging system in Europe

Red blood cells
The system—which has now received a CE Mark in Europe—is designed to provide surgeons with prompt information during the placement of coronary stents. (Wikimedia Commons)

To give clinicians a quick, cross-sectional look into potential blockages of the heart’s major arteries, Abbott has combined digital imaging technology with artificial intelligence to build an automated system for cardiac procedures.

The company’s Ultreon software relies on catheters equipped with optical coherence tomography, which uses laser light to scan the interior of a blood vessel and the immediately surrounding tissues to detect calcium and plaque deposits, while also instantly measuring the diameter of an artery.

The system—which has now received a CE Mark in Europe—is designed to provide surgeons with prompt information during the placement of coronary stents, faster and more precisely compared to conventional angiography imaging.

A previous study by Abbott found having the information from OCT scans readily available led most physicians to change their treatment approach, by selecting the proper stent size and placement location. 

RELATED: FDA clears PhotoniCare's handheld OCT scanner for checking ear infections

After planning a procedure using angiography alone, 88% of operations altered course when surgeons saw high-resolution OCT images and automatic measurements from inside the patient's arteries.

"Ultreon Software can potentially improve physician and patient experience by utilizing a systematic process, reducing variability and increasing accuracy of diagnosis and application of therapies," said Nick West, chief medical officer of Abbott’s vascular business, which also plans to seek regulatory approvals for the system in the U.S. and Japan. 

RELATED: FDA clears NinePoint's OCT imaging catheter for use in bile ducts, pancreas

The use of OCT imaging—as well as accompanying AI software for processing the incoming images—has risen over the past few years across a variety of clinical areas, and especially in eye care. By measuring the thickness and health of the retina and other tissues, these scans can help diagnose glaucoma as well as macular edema and degeneration and is being explored as a potential diagnostic for Alzheimer’s disease.

In cardiology, Abbott’s Dragonfly OpStar OCT-equipped catheter will compete with devices such as Terumo's Lunawave, as well as intravascular ultrasound-based devices, including Boston Scientific’s OptiCross for coronary procedures. However, the use of laser light promises to deliver higher-resolution images than sound waves alone. 

To introduce more surgeons to the new technology, last December Abbott launched its first virtual reality training program for OCT, giving cardiologists a chance to test-drive the device in a simulated cath lab.