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Why is Artificial Intelligence the next big thing in Orthopedics?

In their most simple form, AI applications in healthcare consist of a collection of technologies that will enable machines to comprehend, predict, act, and learn. Current technologies are limited because they are algorithm-based. Artificial Intelligence will make algorithm-only tools to become indispensable instruments for patients, providers, and physicians. 

Artificial Intelligence Applications in Orthopedics

AI has demonstrated high utility in classifying non-medical images. A study looked at the feasibility of using AI for skeletal radiographs to identify key image properties, despite the limited image quality. The AI program is composed of 5 deep learning networks, that were selected from a popular online library: the Caffe library (Jia et al. 2014). Caffe is a deep learning framework made with expression, speed, and modularity in mind

The study concluded that with AI it is possible to review images on an unprecedented scale in digital picture archives and link them to outcomes. Apart from identifying traditional orthopedic measures such as wrist angles algorithms can search for new patterns, for example, it is possible to go beyond simple angles into complex patterns that combine angles, comminution, and bone quality. As many of fracture classifications lack prognostic value (Shehovych et al. 2016), often with questionable inter-observer reliability (Audigé et al. 2005), the option of aiding the classification using a computer algorithm is of great interest.

This AI program was compared against the radiography gold standard for fractures. The performance of the AI program  was also compared with two orthopedic surgeons who reviewed the same images. AI program had an accuracy of at least 90 percent when identifying laterality, body part, and exam view. AI also performed comparably to the senior orthopedic surgeons’ image reviews. The study outcomes support the use of AI in orthopedic radiographs. 

While the current AI technology does not provide important features surgeons need, such as advanced measurements, classifications, and the ability to combine multiple exam views, these are technical details that can be worked out in future iterations for the orthopedic surgeon community.

Will Orthopedic Surgeons be Replaced by Robots in the Future?

Patients have so far shown great interest and enthusiasm for surgery assisted by robots, dazzled by the high-tech sophistication. Patients would still like humane orthopedic surgeons to be around them during the treatment process.

A large component of the physician/patient relationship, even for surgeons, is the communication, and that absolutely would be lost if artificial intelligence starts to make all the clinical decisions along with, or for the patient and then also performs the surgery.

Robotics and AI will be always there in the future and a synergistic relationship between the human mind and them is the way forward for more effective care of patients.

Orthopedic Surgery Blog
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