AI-driven vision for heart health comes into focus

September 21, 2023

EDMONTON — The University of Alberta (U of A), in partnership with the University Hospital Foundation (UHF), is embarking on a groundbreaking project to transform cardiac imaging with the power of artificial intelligence (AI).

Cardiac imaging is the cornerstone of diagnosing, treating and observing the progress of heart disease, says Justin Ezekowitz, director of Cardiovascular Research at the U of A. He believes it holds untapped potential for patients. “We need to take a deeper dive into the images. There’s information buried in there that we haven’t really appreciated or utilized.”

Now, thanks to the UHF, Ezekowitz and a multidisciplinary team of researchers are taking on that challenge. UHF has granted nearly $1 million to the U of A’s Cardiovascular Research Institute, funding a three-year project that will harness the power of artificial intelligence to analyze cardiac images, as a tool for clinicians to more precisely diagnose and treat heart disease.

The UHF funding supports three research goals: building a database of curated cardiac images, integrating AI into the database to identify patterns useful for treating heart disease and applying these findings back into the health-care system to support patients.

Dr. Jodi Abbott, UHF’s president and CEO, emphasizes the potential impact of this research. “Cardiovascular disease already poses an immense health challenge to millions of Canadians. The resulting clinical research could have immense, world-changing implications for patient outcomes.”

Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada — one person dies every five minutes from heart conditions, stroke or vascular cognitive impairment. It’s also Canada’s most costly illness, totaling more than $21 billion in medical and lost earning costs.

Ultimately, the researchers hope to extend their work far beyond the province, sharing their AI-powered findings with other health-care professionals.

“If we can set it up correctly, it shouldn’t matter geographically where people are,” says Ezekowitz. “We should be able to create solutions that will help people in a much broader world. We’re in the first chapter.”

The full story can be seen here. To arrange interviews, please contact:

Ross Neitz | U of A Media Strategist | | 780-297-8354

Mikiko Van Horn | UHF Communications Specialist | | 825-901-0614

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