For neurologists and neurocritical care providers like Dr. Chethan Rao, medical director of Neuroscience ICU at Baylor St. Luke's Hospital, time is incredibly important when it comes to brain-related recoveries.
"For every minute that you don't treat a patient with a stroke, 2 million nerve cells die. In the normal aging process, you lose about 35,000 cells a year or so," Rao says. "In other words, you age about 10 years every minute you don't get a treatment for stroke."
This is why his team is using new technologies, softwares, and innovation to drastically reduce the time it takes to treat patients who've suffered from a stroke starting from the moment they enter through the doors of their hospital.
One of the latest advancements at Baylor St. Luke's is the adoption of the San Francisco-based artificial intelligence app called Viz.ai across its stroke care teams.
The app received FDA approval in February 2020 and uses deep learning algorithms to analyze CAT scans for suspected large vessel occlusion (LVO) strokes. Baylor purchased the software about a year ago and is the first Houston-area hospital to use artificial intelligence for this type of treatment.
Viz.ai instantly allows doctors to determine salvageable and unsalvageable brain tissue, creating what Dr. Rao describes as a "map" for any potential procedures. Determining the viability of this type of treatment traditionally would take about 15 to 20 minutes, according to Rao.
"That's the reason artificial intelligence and automated technology has become extremely important. Because the more you've reduced the time it's required to make decisions and to provide treatments for stroke, that benefit is humungous for the patient," he says.
Rao says that his team uses the software about every day and has treated roughly 140 stroke patients with guidance from the tool.
Next the hospital aims to connect Viz.ai with additional automated systems it has adopted to speed up processes for stroke patients and manage their care, including TigerConnect for internal HIPAA-approved messaging and Decisio, a Houston-based product that captures key time stamps.
And Rao adds that the hospital is researching ways to extend the use of Viz.ai for select patients—to salvage more brain matter and analyze additional neurological events.
"More exciting things will be coming out of it," he says. "We're also working on helping it analyze aneurysms, not just blockages. Can we locate the bleeds, so that we can create different alert systems and then create different treatment pathways immediately?"