University of Bath engineering researchers are set to begin a £830,000 project helping to understand how artificial intelligence (AI) could be used to detect blood clots in patients' lungs.

Working with clinicians from the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust (the RUH) and industrial partners, they will seek to determine if AI software can help identify and guide new treatments.

Bath engineers, led by Dr Andrew Cookson from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, will help RUK colleagues to refine the Trust's own in-house AI tool to detect Chronic Thrombo-Embolic Pulmonary Hypertension (CTEPH) early.

It is hoped that the trial will mean that patients at risk of pulmonary embolic disease – blood clots in the lungs – can be diagnosed as fast as possible, helping to enable treatment sooner and improve patient outcomes.

RUH partnership continues

The grant is being awarded by the Accelerated Access Collaboration, in partnership with the National Institute for Health Research, after the multidisciplinary research team from the RUH made a successful bid to the NHS's Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award, which makes funding available for the most promising AI projects that support the NHS Long Term Plan.

Pulmonary embolic disease is a common condition that happens when blood clots cause blockages in the lung arteries. This can be a life-threatening emergency, causing death if not detected early and treated quickly with blood-thinning medication.

Pulmonary embolic disease can also cause long-term problems when clots do not fully dissolve, leaving scar tissue that prevents blood from flowing freely through the lungs. A long-term condition, CTEPH can leave patients breathless, eventually causing heart failure from the build-up of pressure which in turn can be fatal. The sooner CTEPH is spotted and treated, the earlier potentially lifesaving treatments can be started.

Radiologists at the RUH will partner with leading healthcare AI companies AIDOC and IMBIO to analyse CT scans of patients who have suspected pulmonary emboli to see whether the diagnosis of blood clots can be made quicker and more accurately.

Condition affects 4 million

Dr Jonathan Rodrigues, RUH Consultant Cardiothoracic Radiologist, who is leading the study, said: "We are delighted to receive this prestigious funding to research ways to improve outcomes for the people we care for with pulmonary embolic disease, which is a common condition that can be life-threatening. We hope that by working with our AI partners, using the very latest artificial intelligence tools, we can help to save lives and get the very best value for money for the NHS."

Professor Jay Suntharalingam, Director of the Bath Pulmonary Hypertension Service and coinvestigator, said: "The RUH provides specialist pulmonary hypertension care to approximately 4million people in our region. I'm excited that we will be continuing our work with the University of Bath to develop our own AI tool. It will help with the detection of an important chronic complication of pulmonary embolism that is potentially curable if picked up early."

Dr Andrew Cookson, who is also a member of the Centre for Therapeutic Innovation, said: "I am delighted that we will be able to continue the development of our AI-based technology for early detection of CTPEH. This work is the result of a close collaboration between my team at the University of Bath and clinicians at the RUH since 2020, which has had clinical and patient need embedded from the start. With this funding we will be able to develop the software to be much closer to commercialisation and to delivering improved patient outcomes."

Dr Jonathan Rodrigues concluded: "I'd like to thank everyone who has been involved with the successful award bid and who will be supporting the trial going forward – this really is a gamechanger in how we identify and treat pulmonary embolism."