20 April 2023

Double honours for innovative AI technology which speeds up heart diagnosis

An artificial intelligence tool which speeds up heart diagnosis by automatically segmenting the complex chambers of the heart, providing interpretation of blood flow in and out of the heart without the need for time-consuming manual analysis, could be a 'game changer' in future heart disease care. 


  • New artificial intelligence tool which spots heart damage in seconds receives two national award nominations from the HSJ Digital Awards, including Digital Innovator of the Year
  • The cutting-edge technology is able to calculate complex information needed to provide heart diagnosis without the need for time-consuming and resource-intensive manual mark-up
  • The super-fast analysis could be a ‘game changer’ in future cardiovascular care, and is particularly useful in diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension, a rare and difficult heart condition to spot 


A team of scientists, clinicians and heart imaging specialists from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have received a double award nomination for developing an artificial intelligence tool which is able to spot heart damage in seconds.

The cutting-edge technology, which was shown to have a high degree of accuracy when tested in a large trial involving 2,000 patient scans, performs complex mathematical calculations to measure blood flow in and out of the heart without the need for manual lengthy analysis which often leave results from MRI scans pending for days.

It is also the first AI tool to assess the particular heart muscle which is responsible for pumping blood from the body into the lungs.

The super-fast analysis means that doctors have access to the information they need from MRI heart scans to understand how well the heart is pumping and check its health straight away, speeding up diagnosis and treatment.

The new software, called the AI segmentation of cardiac MRI to automate the measurement of cardiac function and volume technology, is a finalist in both the Digital Innovator of the Year and Optimising Clinical Pathways through Digital categories.

The work has been singled out from over 300 entries submitted by 120 organisations to make it to the final HSJ Digital Awards 2023 shortlist, which are in their inaugural year. The Awards aim to shine a light on the exceptional quality and breadth of innovation and care across the UK’s health and care systems.

Dr Andrew Swift, Consultant Cardiothoracic Radiologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and Senior Lecturer at the University of Sheffield who worked alongside Dr Samer Alabed, Dr Kavitasagary Karunasaagarar and Dr Pete Metherall to develop and test the software, said: “We are absolutely delighted with this double award nomination, which recognises the hard work of our team in bringing this potentially game-changing software to the NHS. The new software provides a quick and comprehensive analysis of the heart’s function, and has the potential to free up more clinicians time to focus on direct patient care rather than having to do this analysis. The technology has also been shown to be particularly useful in observing changes in the heart’s function caused by pulmonary hypertension, a rare condition that constricts blood flow in the arteries of the lung. This in turn causes a strain on the heart, eventually leading to heart failure.”

Carl Burgess, 56, who lives in Huddersfield, was first diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension in May 2015. “Pulmonary hypertension is a rare, easily overlooked condition, and I was told that I was 18 months away from dying if further investigations hadn’t revealed an anomaly because in my condition the heart is trying to pump blood through arteries that are too narrow and therefore has to work much harder. As with other muscles when worked hard, it compensates by getting bigger, but this results in less volume inside the heart – so it works less efficiently – and it all becomes a vicious circle.” 

The father-of-three who recently became a first-time grandfather and has been cared for at Sheffield Teaching Hospital’s specialist pulmonary hypertension centre, since August 2015, believes AI has a valuable role in future healthcare and helping to diagnose conditions like his.

The technology has been developed by Dr Andrew Swift, Dr Samer Alabed, Dr Kavita Karunasagaraar and Dr Pete Metherall with support from MRI radiographers and clinical scientists at the Sheffield 3D-lab and in collaboration with Dr Rob van der Geest at Leiden University.


Photo: Dr Kavita Karunasagaraar, Dr Andrew Swift, Dr Samer Alabed and Dr Pete Metherall and the segmented results of the MRI heart scan the AI technology is able to generate in a matter of seconds

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