AI technology detects ‘ticking time bomb’ arteries

The EU has approved an artificial intelligence (AI) technology that can identify people at risk of a fatal heart attack, years before it strikes.

The CaRi-Heart technology, developed by British Heart Foundation (BFH) spinout company Caristo Diagnostics, utilises coronary CT angiogram (CTTA) scans already performed in clinical practice. 

It uses AI and deep-learning technology to produce a fat attenuation index score (FAI-Score), which accurately measures inflammation of blood vessels in and around the heart.

A BHF-funded study involving around 4,000 patients found those with an abnormal FAI were up to nine times more likely to die of a heart attack in the next nine years than those with normal FAI readings. 

It also found that around one third of patients initially considered low risk after a routine CCTA, had a much higher risk after CaRi-Heart was applied to their scan. 

The technology has now received CE mark accreditation, meaning it can be used across the UK and Europe.

Research is already taking place in 15 NHS sites and discussions are underway with the NHS about a potential roll-out.

The researchers are now looking at using the technology to predict risk of developing stroke and diabetes. They are also developing a tool to identify COVID-19 patients at high risk of future heart attack or stroke.


Each year around 350,000 people in the UK have CCTA scans to check for narrowed or blocked segments in blood vessels that supply the heart, but 75{1936381d4253f19a98bc2ecae94a0b0438ab0e234f1c555690d854373a3c9a42} do not show significant narrowing of the arteries. Until now, there has been no way for doctors to detect all the underlying red flags that could lead to a future heart attack.

CaRi-Heart performs a deeper dive into CCTA scans to identify ‘ticking time bomb’ arteries that cause heart attacks. Patients identified as high risk can then be given personalised medication and monitored more closely.


Meanwhile, the NHS is working with UK biotech firm Genomics plc on a pilot study using genetic information to predict patients’ risk of heart attack, due to begin in late Spring.


Dr Cheerag Shirodaria, former BHF researcher and CEO and cofounder of Caristo Diagnostics, said: “The beauty of our technology is that it will not only save countless lives, but it is incredibly simple. CaRi-Heart analysis can be undertaken on any CT heart scan, hospitals don’t need to change equipment and patients don’t need another test. Physicians simply need to send their patient’s CT heart scan and they will receive the personalised FAI-Score and CaRi-Heart Risk to guide patient management.”

Professor James Leiper, BFH associate medical director, said: “The development and approval of this new AI tool is a major success story. It’s a prime example of how BHF-funded research can lay the foundations for a truly transformational advance in the diagnosis and prevention of heart and circulatory diseases.”

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