Automated detection of pulmonary embolism in CT pulmonary angiograms using an AI-powered algorithm

Thomas Weikert,  David J. Winkel, Jens Bremerich, Bram Stieltjes, Victor Parmar, Alexander W. Sauter and Gregor Sommer



To evaluate the performance of an AI-powered algorithm for the automatic detection of pulmonary embolism (PE) on chest computed tomography pulmonary angiograms (CTPAs) on a large dataset.


We retrospectively identified all CTPAs conducted at our institution in 2017 (n = 1499). Exams with clinical questions other than PE were excluded from the analysis (n = 34). The remaining exams were classified into positive (n = 232) and negative (n = 1233) for PE based on the final written reports, which defined the reference standard. The fully anonymized 1-mm series in soft tissue reconstruction served as input for the PE detection prototype algorithm that was based on a deep convolutional neural network comprising a Resnet architecture. It was trained and validated on 28,000 CTPAs acquired at other institutions. The result series were reviewed using a web-based feedback platform. Measures of diagnostic performance were calculated on a per patient and a per finding level. Results The algorithm correctly identified 215 of 232 exams positive for pulmonary embolism (sensitivity 92.7%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 88.3–95.5%) and 1178 of 1233 exams negative for pulmonary embolism (specificity 95.5%; 95% CI 94.2– 96.6%). On a per finding level, 1174 of 1352 findings marked as embolus by the algorithm were true emboli. Most of the false positive findings were due to contrast agent–related flow artifacts, pulmonary veins, and lymph nodes.


The AI prototype algorithm we tested has a high degree of diagnostic accuracy for the detection of PE on CTPAs. Sensitivity and specificity are balanced, which is a prerequisite for its clinical usefulness.

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