AI-Assisted Brain Surgery Is Here

Innovative new software is putting AI to work in the OR, for the benefit of patients, surgeons and hospitals alike.

xray of brain.

Brain aneurysms, or IAs (intracranial aneurysms), are responsible for close to 500,000 deaths worldwide every year. Despite medical advances, around 65% of patients with ruptured IAs die from the initial bleed or subsequent complications. Among the survivors, about 50% become disabled with significant loss of independence.

Ciprian “Chip” Ionita, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University at Buffalo, hopes to improve these numbers through QAS.AI, a small biomedical engineering company he co-founded along with a team of UB faculty members in 2020.

Real-time AI solutions

Ionita and his research team are developing software intended to detect complications during brain aneurysm surgery, such as inadequate blood flow in the brain, and forecast whether a selected treatment method will succeed—all in real time.

“We are pushing the boundary of the AI applications, developing prognosis tools for the operating room, which could improve treatment outcomes and early detection of complications,” said Ionita. “This will cut health care costs and save lives.”

Now, Ionita and his team, which includes Adnan Siddiqui and Jason Davies from the Department of Neurosurgery and Vincent Tutino from the Department of Biomedical Engineering, have the opportunity to apply their research to clinical evaluations in two sites in Buffalo and one in Florida, thanks to a $1 million Phase II grant from the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Technology Transfer program.

One-stop surgery

QAS.IA integrates years of research by faculty and students in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

In 2021 the company received $256,000 in initial funding from the same NSF program to begin creating the AI-based software, which assesses the likelihood of an aneurysm healing within a year and relays that information to the neurosurgeons in real time, enabling them to adjust the treatment approach during surgery and potentially curtail the need for future procedures.

Currently, said Ionita, 20% to 30% of brain aneurysm cases require the patient to come back for additional procedures after the initial surgery. “Our goal is to develop a technology that allows successful treatment in one stop,” he said.

A win-win for patients and the industry

The potential commercial impact of this technology is immense, Ionita said, not just for the medical imaging companies but for hospitals and insurance companies as well. The latter will benefit from reduced re-treatment costs, which average $65,000 each and would amount to an annual savings of $1.95 billion in the United States alone.

“This innovative AI platform promises to revolutionize the medical imaging and health care industries,” he said, “improving patient outcomes while boosting the bottom line.”