Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have developed a new software using deep learning to enhance diagnostic support for brain images obtained through CT. This software can offer valuable information comparable to MRI, particularly aiding in diagnosing conditions like dementia and other brain disorders. It accomplishes this by transferring interpretations from MRI images to CT images of the same brains, benefiting radiologists and other professionals in primary care.

“Our method generates diagnostically useful data from routine CT scans that, in some cases, is as good as an MRI scan performed in specialist healthcare,” says Michael Schöll, PhD, a professor at Sahlgrenska Academy who led the work involved in the study, carried out in collaboration with researchers at Karolinska Institutet, the National University of Singapore, and Lund University.

Schöll adds,“The point is that this simple, quick method can provide much more information from examinations that are already carried out on a routine basis within primary care, but also in certain specialist healthcare investigations. In its initial stage, the method can support dementia diagnosis, however, it is also likely to have other applications within neuroradiology.”

Reliable Decision-Making Support 

This AI-based algorithm is a proven clinical tool that could offer swift and dependable decision-making support, reducing false negatives, researchers say. They anticipate its potential to enhance primary care diagnostics, streamlining patient referrals to specialist care.

“This is a major step forward for imaging diagnosis,” says Meera Srikrishna, a postdoctor at the University of Gothenburg and lead author of the study, which has been published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

“It is now possible to measure the size of different structures or regions of the brain in a similar way to advanced analysis of MRI images. The software makes it possible to segment the brain’s constituent parts in the image and to measure its volume, even though the image quality is not as high with CT.”

Applications for Other Brain Diseases 

The software has been trained on images of a total of 1,117 people, all of whom underwent both CT and MRI imaging. The current study mainly involved healthy older individuals and patients with various forms of dementia. Another application that the team is now investigating is for normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH).

With NPH, the team has obtained new results indicating that the method can be used both during diagnosis and to monitor the effects of treatment. NPH is a condition that occurs particularly in older people, whereby fluid builds up in the cerebral ventricular system and results in neurological symptoms. About 2% of all people over the age of 65 are affected. Because diagnosis can be complicated and the condition risks being confused with other diseases, many cases are likely to be missed.

“NPH is difficult to diagnose, and it can also be hard to safely evaluate the effect of shunt surgery to drain the fluid in the brain,” Schöll says. “We therefore believe that our method can make a big difference when caring for these patients.”

The software has been developed over the course of several years, and development is now continuing in cooperation with clinics in Sweden, the U.K., and the U.S. together with a company, which is a requirement for the innovation to be approved and transferred to healthcare.