Byte solution for the heart

even when computers are increasingly being used as major diagnostic tools, the role of physicians has not diminished. Computers are especially helpful in cases when complex analytical procedures have to be performed with small samples. But physicians are still required to diagnose, analyse results in conjunction with clinical symptoms and suggest suitable treatment to patients.

Now, researchers have devised for the first time a computer program that would assist doctors in interpreting the electrocardiograms (ecg) of patients. It has been found to work better than cardiologists in the diagnosis of heart attacks (Circulation , Vol 96, No 1798-802).

Lars Edenhardt and Bo Heden at the Department of Clinical Physiology and Cardiology, University Hospital, Lund, Sweden, have used the computer program with neural networks. It is a form of artificial intelligence that mimics human learning. The system can recognise electro-cardiographic patterns of ischaemic heart disease by exposing the machine to thousands of ecg tracings with matching case histories.

During trials, the computer performs as many ecg s in a short time as several cardiologists do in their life time. Then the crucial test was conducted to know who can do a better job