GE Healthcare's new chest X-ray AI double-checks ventilator tube placement in COVID-19 patients

As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced changes in the day-to-day care provided by many clinicians, many medtech companies have worked to adapt their products and programs toward these emergency practices that have become all too common.

Seeing an opportunity to apply its artificial intelligence technology, GE Healthcare has launched a new algorithm that can read X-rays and help assess the correct placement of ventilator tubes in patients under critical care.

“Today, clinicians are overwhelmed, experiencing mounting pressure as a result of an ever-increasing number of patients,” said Jan Makela, president and CEO of GE Healthcare’s imaging division. 

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The company estimates that as many as one-in-four patients intubated outside of an emergency room may have a misplaced endotracheal tube, which can lead to severe, life-threatening complications such as over-inflating or collapsing a lung, or even cardiac arrest. Meanwhile, up to 45% of patients in intensive care units receive intubation connected to a ventilator.

The AI program, included in GE Healthcare’s Critical Care Suite, is designed to live on the mobile X-ray scanner itself. It automatically detects the tube in chest X-ray images, provides measurements of its position within the windpipe on the scanner’s monitor, and helps flag and prioritize potentially dangerous cases.

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“The pandemic has proven what we already knew—that data, AI and connectivity are central to helping those on the front lines deliver intelligently efficient care,” Makela said, adding that these advancements will continue to have an impact after the pandemic subsides.

The AI suite also includes algorithms focusing on improving the quality of the X-ray image, by noting field-of-view errors and automatically rotating the images to the correct orientation.