Researcher improves AI for contouring heart images
November 23, 2022
SHERBROOKE, Que. – A University of Sherbrooke researcher is being recognized for his efforts to automate the time-consuming and redundant task of contouring ultrasound images of the heart, a necessary step in diagnosing heart disease that up until now has been manual.
The innovative research has earned Thierry Judge (pictured) the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation – Master’s, awarded by Mitacs, a national innovation organization that fosters growth by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions. The award will be presented at a ceremony at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on November 22.
Judge, a master’s student working under the supervision of Professor Pierre-Marc Jodoin in the department of computer science at the University of Sherbrooke, has developed technology to identify when results generated by emerging artificial intelligence (AI) systems – which speed up analysis of ultrasound images to detect heart disease – are incorrect or uncertain. The software, called CRISP, is currently being tested by Oxford, U.K.-based Ultromics Ltd., a leader in AI for echocardiography.
“AI methods are usually as accurate as clinicians at understanding images, but there are still times when very obvious mistakes are made, which is slowing down the integration of AI-based diagnostics into clinical practice,” explained Judge.
In simple terms, AI-assisted heart contouring automates the process of extracting key clinical metrics from ultrasound images, such as the volume of blood being pumped by the left heart ventricle, that are routinely used to identify and diagnose heart disease. Otherwise, doctors need to manually set contours on images in order to see specific parts of the heart and obtain cardiac output data required to make a diagnosis.
Although emerging AI-based approaches save time, they are still prone to error, meaning doctors must validate each result for accuracy before proceeding to a diagnosis. With Judge’s advancement – software that accurately flags contouring metrics generated by the automated system that don’t appear to be correct – only unclear results need to be validated, resulting in additional time savings and greater confidence.
“The ultimate goal is to build trust in AI systems so that we can free up time for clinicians to see more patients, and spend more time on patient care instead of manual tasks,” said Judge. “We know these AI systems will fail sometimes. The goal of my research is to accurately identify when they do.”
Judge’s research was recently published, and the software he developed is currently in the process of being integrated into Ultromics’ AI-assisted contouring product. He credits Mitacs for helping to set him on the path towards commercialization.
“Before I partnered with Ultromics, I had a more academic view of my research,” said Judge. “Now I see how the software development pipeline works in practice and I have a better understanding of what’s needed to make my methods usable for clinicians. I’m also able to tap into valuable input from people who work across various parts of the development pipeline, and apply their feedback in my work.”
The Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation – Master’s is presented to a Mitacs intern who has made a significant achievement in research and development innovation during their Mitacs-funded research.
Judge is one of eight Mitacs award winners nationally, chosen from thousands of researchers who take part in Mitacs programs each year. The remaining seven recipients were recognized for outstanding innovation, commercialization or exceptional leadership in other areas of research.
In congratulating the winners, Mitacs CEO John Hepburn remarked on the importance of providing Canadian innovators with opportunities for experiential skills development through strategic partnership between industry, government and academia.
“These prestigious awards, now in their 12th year, celebrate the tremendous achievement of top Mitacs talent and recognize the infinite potential for innovation made possible when capable leaders work together,” Hepburn said. “Mitacs is honoured to play a role in helping to advance critical research, and foster economic growth, across Canada.”
For more information about Mitacs and a full list of the award winners, visit www.mitacs.ca/newsroom.
Mitacs is a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions. It is funded by the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia, along with the Government of Alberta, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan and the Government of Yukon.