Optimizing mechanical ventilation of intensive care patients with Artificial Intelligence

Gruppenbild im Behandlungszimmer

Started as an innovation project at the EKFZ for Digital Health, the IntelliLung project for the first clinical trial, coordinated by TU Dresden, will be follow-on funded by the European Union (EU HORIZON-HLTH-2021) from September 2022 after the successful completion of the EKFZ project. Scientists from the Medical Faculty of Dresden, together with 13 international partners, are testing a decision support system for mechanical ventilation of intensive care patients. The five-year research project is funded with a total of 5.98 million euros, of which 1.8 million euros will go to Dresden.

Decision support system based on AI

The goal ist to further improve and optimize the mechanical ventilation of intensive care patients. “Over the past two years, together with the Institute for Applied Informatics (InfAI) in Dresden, we have developed a decision support system based on artificial intelligence, which we can now test and expand in clinical practice” says Professor Thea Koch, Director of the Clinic and Polyclinic for Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Therapy and head of the IntelliLung consortium.

The decision support system, is designed to provide the treatment team with a recommendation for the cessation of mechanical ventilation. “Not only the oxygen supply, but also the respiratory rate and ventilation pressures have to be adjusted again and again depending on the physical condition and the treatment status; this is not a static condition, but a process,” explains Dr. Jakob Wittenstein, Clinician Scientist at EKFZ for Digital Health and Physician at the Departement of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Therapy.

Preventing injuries to the lungs

Optimizing mechanical ventilation is not a simple process. Precision and continuous balancing of the relevant parameters is particularly important to avoid lung damage caused by mechanical ventilation. If the ventilation pressures that are used are too high, there is a risk of mechanical injury within the lungs. If the pressure at the end of exhalation is too low, the lung could collapse, making further ventilation difficult. “We are trying to combine different ventilation parameters in such a way, that the end result is a digital decision aid for optimal ventilation,” says Dr. Wittenstein.

Research with direct benefits for patients

The planned start of the project is September 2022, and the scientists, who are spread across 14 different national and international hospitals, research institutes and companies, have five years to optimize a procedure based on artificial intelligence. “In the end, the goal is to minimize ventilation time, thereby shortening the length of stay in the intensive care unit and also reducing lethality,” summarizes Dr. Wittenstein. The team is planning two studies. Retrospectively, they will use data from former invasively ventilated patients; at the same time, current data will be collected and evaluated in a prospective study. In addition to the clinical and academic partners, the project also involves two manufacturers of ventilation technology. “The Corona pandemic in particular, which led to lung function impairment in many sufferers, has shown us how challenging this clinical field is. The IntelliLung project will make a significant contribution to increasing treatment success in the medium term with the help of artificial intelligence. The approval of the EU funding is a great success for Dresden University Medical Departement, not only because of the amount of nearly six million euros,” says Professor Michael Albrecht, CEO of Dresden’s Carl Gustav Carus University Hospital. “The project is the first time that EU funding has been secured for a clinical trial coordinated by the Technical University of Dresden, and in particular by the Medical Faculty. This is a great success for which I would like to warmly congratulate the project participants and wish them every success in their scientific work,” says Professor Esther Troost as Dean of the Medical Faculty Dresden.

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