Fujitsu & Tokyo Shinagawa Hospital to develop AI technology for Covid-19 pneumonia

The new AI technology will learn from past CT scans of patients

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Fujitsu and Tokyo Shinagawa Hospital announced the launch of a joint R&D project for AI technology to support diagnostic imaging via chest CT (Computed Tomography), which represents a promising candidate for the effective diagnosis of Covid-19 pneumonia.

The newly-proposed technology supports doctors performing diagnostic imaging on patients suspected of having Covid-19 pneumonia, presenting the likelihood of infection through a numerical, three-dimensional visualization of the spread of shadows in the lungs using chest CT imaging.

Applying AI to this analysis could significantly reduce the burden on doctors who diagnose Covid-19 pneumonia by automating a process that usually demands the visual confirmation of hundreds of chest CT images per patient. Fujitsu and Tokyo Shinagawa Hospital anticipate that the system will deliver early detection of Covid-19 pneumonia cases based on chest CT image findings, even in cases in which the possibility of infection is determined to be low upon initial examination. This joint research will enhance AI diagnostic support technology for novel coronavirus pneumonia, and Fujitsu ultimately aims to commercialize the technology as a healthcare solution for frontline medical professionals.

Envisioned flow of novel coronavirus infection testing (*AI diagnostic imaging developed through this joint R&D effort)

When treating patients who are strongly suspected of having a novel coronavirus infection, the diagnosis and treatment plan is determined holistically based on PCR test results and other test results, including blood tests and chest CT test. Even if the PCR test is negative, the diagnosis of new-onset coronavirus pneumonia can be made by other tests, and imaging with chest CT is an important consideration. Doctors make lung disease diagnoses based on the characteristics of the lesion’s shadows on the patient’s chest CT image.

In addition to identifying abnormalities, they visually check hundreds of chest CT images per patient to understand the three-dimensional distribution of shadows throughout the lung. Growing demand for technologies that reduce doctors’ burden and support speedy decision-making has accompanied the spread of the Covid-19 virus. It is also essential to identify novel coronavirus pneumonia from a CT scan of the patient’s chest if there is a low likelihood of a novel coronavirus infection during the examination, and PCR testing is not performed. In response to the need for diagnostic support, Fujitsu and Tokyo Shinagawa Hospital will jointly embark on developing AI-assisted diagnostic imaging technology for chest CT scans, which are considered an effective method in diagnosing novel coronavirus pneumonia.

The joint development of AI imaging support technology

According to the press release, past CT image data of Covid-19 pneumonia patients from Tokyo Shinagawa Hospital will aid in developing AI technology that detects abnormal shadow patterns in the lungs. As the AI learns from this data about the possibility of Covid-19 pneumonia, Fujitsu, and Tokyo Shinagawa Hospital will work together to evaluate the technology’s effectiveness.

When diagnosing Covid-19 pneumonia, patterns of abnormal opacities in the lungs and the spread of shadows across the entire lung are essential information. Patterns of abnormal shadows are detected using AI developed by Fujitsu Laboratories. The lung is divided into four areas on the CT image — the right lung periphery, the right lung center, the left lung center, and the left lung periphery. The distribution of shadows in the vertical direction in each area is displayed in a histogram. This will enable the development of new AI to quantify the three-dimensional spread of shadows while using the detected abnormal shadow patterns and shadow distributions to identify Covid-19 pneumonia. While showing the possibility of Covid-19 infection with AI technology, the aim is to shorten the amount of time doctors spend visually confirming the three-dimensional spread of the shadow from hundreds of chest CT images and to allow even non-specialists to diagnose Covid-19 pneumonia efficiently.

Future plans

Through this joint research and development, Fujitsu and Tokyo Shinagawa Hospital aim to deliver technology that leverages various information to diagnose Covid-19 pneumonia to achieve improved diagnostic support from chest CT image diagnosis. Fujitsu is considering the commercialization of this technology as a healthcare solution. By linking it with electronic medical record information, the goal is to support a diagnosis by doctors based on chest CT images, while also expanding the application area of this technology. Tokyo Shinagawa Hospital aims to contribute to society by integrating various studies conducted in the hospital and using them to diagnose and treat novel coronavirus pneumonia.

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