AI has been doing an increasingly impressive array of things in healthcare in recent years, but one of the more interesting applications has been around transplants. For instance, one study from earlier this year used AI to help match up organ donors to ensure transplants were successfully accepted. Likewise, a project from this year used AI to do a similar job for bone marrow transplants.
Now, researchers, from Northwestern University, have developed an app that can predict the risk of liver transplant patients suffering from complications.
“Knowing the patient’s risk is critical to help prevent the frequent cardiac complications that accompany liver transplant surgery and to determine which patients are likely to survive the transplant,” they say.
Liver transplant surgery is incredibly high risk cardiac surgery as the blood flow changes are unique to each patient with end-stage liver disease. During the transplant procedure, huge changes in blood volume have a significant impact on the functioning of the heart.
“Identifying persons who are at highest risk may mean restricting transplantation so that we maximize the benefit of scarce donor organs to persons who have a lower risk of a cardiac event and are more likely to survive the stress of a liver transplant,” the team say.
Those in the higher risk group can thus receive the appropriate support to help them better manage the range of cardiac issues they're likely to face as a result of the transplant.
The app, which is both web-based and mobile-based, is called the Cardiovascular Risk in Orthotopic Liver Transplantation (CAR-OLT).
Before this new method was developed, physicians would use a number of various risk-scoring tools that had been developed in non-liver transplant populations. For instance, they might use the cardiac risk index, but this would provide no better insights than flipping a coin because it was not developed with liver transplant patients in mind.
As such, the CAR-OLT tool is a big improvement, if for no other reason than it's the first liver-transplant specific risk tool for doctors to use to assess cardiac risk.
With estimates that 1/3 of liver transplant recipients will develop some kind of cardiovascular complication within a year of the transplant, it's a tool that can't come fast enough.