GE Healthcare's AI-fueled cardiovascular ultrasound nets FDA clearance

The system's AI helps automate measuring the heart muscle and gauging rates of blood flow, to help speed up and standardize echocardiogram exams. (GE Healthcare)

GE Healthcare nabbed FDA clearance for its artificial intelligence-powered cardiovascular ultrasound system, designed to help automate and standardize echocardiogram exams.

The Ultra Edition package for the company’s line of Vivid ultrasounds incorporates learning algorithms that can automatically detect the points in a 2D image that are used to measure the size of the left ventricle, an important metric in diagnosing and treating heart failure and disease.

The system also semi-automatically detects measurements of blood flow and velocity within the body. And at the same time, it identifies the transducer angle used by the technician and labels each image accordingly, which simplifies the technician's work and makes later review of the images easier. Combined, the features aim to save about 7 to 10 minutes per scan, according to the company.

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RELATED: To screen COVID-19 patients for heart problems, FDA clears several ultrasound, AI devices from Philips, Eko, Caption Health

“With the Vivid Ultra Edition, we offer AI capabilities that help address healthcare providers’ two key challenges in echo exams—how time-consuming the exam is and the degree of variability that exists in the quantitative results,” Dagfinn Saetre, GE Healthcare’s general manager of cardiovascular ultrasound, said in a statement.

In addition, the AI can help reproduce personalized exams, as patients come in for subsequent checkups to monitor their disease progression, the company said.

Beyond heart disease itself, echocardiograms have been used to screen incoming patients with COVID-19 for potentially serious heart-related complications. 

Earlier this year the FDA cleared several AI and ultrasound technologies for use against the coronavirus, including Caption Health’s system for guiding technicians through the procedure and obtaining a clearer image. The agency also granted an emergency authorization to Eko, for its algorithms that use the heart’s electrical signals to measure ejection fraction. 

RELATED: NIH launches imaging AI collaboration for COVID-19 and beyond

Separately, GE Healthcare also launched Edison HealthLink, designed to help clinicians collate health data from various sources on-site, for fast responses during critical, time-sensitive situations such as treating strokes.

The on-site computing technology can evaluate brain scans without uploading the data to the cloud and potentially waiting for a response, the company said.

“As more care delivery becomes virtual and as more healthcare data moves to the cloud, technologies like Edison HealthLink provide a bridge, allowing devices to operate on premise, at the edge and in the cloud,” said GE Healthcare’s chief digital officer, Amit Phadnis.

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