Brain-Mimicking Software Provides New, Non-Invasive Way to Diagnose Cardiac Infections

September 21, 2009

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN have designed “teachable software” that can mimic the human brain to help diagnose cardiac infections without the need for an invasive exam.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN have designed “teachable software” that can mimic the human brain to help diagnose cardiac infections without the need for an invasive exam.

Called an artificial neural network (ANN), the new software is designed to mimic the brain’s cognitive function and trained to recognize and evaluate the symptoms that would indicate a cardiac infection. The researchers studied patients with endocarditis that developed as a result of implanted medical devices, finding that the “best-trained ANN” was able to recognize most cases of device-related endocarditis (72 of 73 cases) and most regular cases of endocarditis (12 of 13 cases). The team evaluated patients who were known to have either endocarditis or device-related endocarditis.

According to the researchers, “when used on an overall sample that included both known and unknown cases, the ANN accurately excluded endocarditis in at least half of the cases, thus eliminating half the cohort from a needless invasive procedure.”

During the course of the study, the team evaluated 189 Mayo Clinic patients who had been diagnosed with device-related endocarditis between 1991 and 2003. The ability of the ANN to recognize the great majority of regular and device-related endocarditis yielded a “confidence level greater than 99 percent,” according to the researchers.

"If, through this novel method, we can help determine a percentage of endocarditis diagnoses with a high rate of accuracy, we hope to save a significant number of patients from the discomfort, risk and expense of the standard diagnostic procedure," said M. Rizwan Sohail, MD, lead author of the study and infectious diseases specialist at the Mayo Clinic.

The research team included Daniel Uslan, MD, Paul Friedman, MD, David Hayes, MD, Walter Wilson, MD, James Steckelberg, MD, and Larry Baddour, MD, all from the Mayo Clinic, and Loai Saadah, PharmD, from Tawam Hospital, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins Medicine, in the United Arab Emirates. Results of the study were also presented at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, held September 12-15, 2009 in San Francisco.