Could a new AI tool help predict epilepsy in children leading to earlier life changing treatment?

Machine learning has been used to create an algorithm which can diagnose epilepsy more consistently, which could allow doctors to perform life-changing surgery to remove or even cure epilepsy in many patients.

Epilepsy is a long-term brain condition which can lead to repeated seizures in affected individuals. A new artificial intelligence (AI) tool developed by an international team led by researchers at University College London (UCL) in the UK has been shown to better detect subtle abnormalities in the brain which are a leading cause of epilepsy.

The algorithm automatically learns to detect lesions from thousands of MRI scans of patients and has been shown to reliably detect lesions of different types, shapes and sizes, and many lesions that were previously missed by radiologists.

Focal cortical dysplasia (FCD) are areas of the brain that have developed abnormally and are a leading cause of drug-resistant epilepsy. FCDs are typically treated with surgery but identifying the abnormalities in the first place can be a real challenge.

Often a life-long condition with serious repercussions, early indication and treatment for epilepsy would be a great relief for millions of people and their families around the world.

About one percent of the world’s population have the serious neurological condition characterised by frequent seizures. This number is consistent in Australia according to the Epilepsy Foundation. In the UK, where the AI tool was developed, some 600,000 people are affected. While drugs treatments are available for most, medications are ineffective in 20-30% of people with epilepsy.

In children who have had surgery to control their epilepsy, FCD is the most common cause, and in adults it is the third most common cause. FCD is also the most common cause of brain abnormalities which have gone unnoticed in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans but have caused epilepsy in people.


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