New System Helps Doctors Predict Complications during Surgeries

New System Helps Doctors Predict Complications during Surgeries

Tuesday, 16 October, 2018 - 05:15
Researchers develop a new machine-learning system, called Prescience. (AFP)
London - Asharq Al-Awsat
During surgery, anesthesiologists monitor and manage patients to make sure they are safe and breathing well. But these doctors can't always predict when complications will arise.

However, researchers at the University of Washington have developed a new machine-learning system, called Prescience, which uses input from patient charts and standard operating room sensors to predict the likelihood that a patient will develop hypoxemia, a condition when blood oxygen levels dip slightly below normal.

Hypoxemia can lead to serious consequences, such as infections and abnormal heart behavior.

Prescience also provides real-world explanations behind its predictions. With this information, anesthesiologists can better understand why a patient is at risk for hypoxemia and prevent it before it happens.

The team estimates that Prescience could improve the ability of anesthesiologists to anticipate and prevent 2.4 million more hypoxemia cases in the United States every year, the German News Agency reported.

"Modern machine-learning methods often just spit out a prediction result. They don't explain to you what patient features contributed to that prediction," said Su-In Lee, an associate professor in the UW's Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering and senior author of the paper.

"Our new method opens this black box and actually enables us to understand why two different patients might develop hypoxemia. That's the power."


For the development of Prescience, researchers acquired a dataset of 50,000 real surgeries from the University of Washington and Harborview medical centers in Seattle. The data include patient information, like age and weight, as well as real-time, minute-by-minute information, such as heart rate, blood oxygen levels and more, throughout the surgeries.

The scientists used all of this data to help Prescience make predictions.

"One of the things the anesthesiologists said was: 'We are not really satisfied with just a prediction. We want to know why.' So that got us thinking," Lee said.

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