In an interview with CNBC today, the Mayo Clinic’s chair of cardiovascular medicine, Dr. Paul Friedman shared that they have seen promising results using AI to detect an often symptom-less heart defect. It’s called asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction, which means a weak heart pump. In Mayo Clinic’s studies, they are using AI to read ECGs and finding impressive results identifying weak heart pumps and even predicting individuals who will be at risk in the future.

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Dr. Friedman shared that 7 million people have weak heart pumps and don’t know it. Eventually, affected individuals may experience shortness of breath, swelling in the legs, or even collapse, but it is often a symptom-less heart defect.

He noted that identifying weak heart pumps is important and valuable because there are medications and medical devices that can prevent symptoms and save lives.

What Mayo Clinic has done is trained AI to read simple ECGs (electrocardiograms) to detect asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction. The study used tens of thousands of ECGs to create the neural network for the AI to search for weak heart pumps, then tested it with unknown ECGs to try and identify the heart defect.

Dr. Friedman said the results were impressive with the AI being a “powerful predictor for whether a weak heart pump is present.” It was in line with the accuracy of standard medical tests like mammograms.

Dr. Friedman mentioned that traditionally ECGs have been performed by medical professionals, but now they can be recorded “from a smartwatch, from a smartphone” alluding to the idea that AI could potentially sniff out weak heart pumps from Apple Watch ECGs and more.

The most impressive part of the study may be that the AI seems to be able to predict those who are more likely to have a weak heart pump in the future. Mayo Clinic believes the AI is able to do this by detecting the very early changes in the electrical signals before the heart becomes weakened.

The power of AI is that it is able to see very subtle patterns as its neural network grows that humans just aren’t able to recognize or remember. Mayo Clinic is currently using the new technology within its healthcare system and is also partnering with a company to produce hardware to help detect weak heart pumps.

Check out the full interview on CNBC.

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