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Team develops AI algorithm to analyze chest X-rays for COVID-19

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A team of researchers at the University of Minnesota recently developed and validated an artificial intelligence algorithm that can evaluate chest X-rays to diagnose possible cases of COVID-19. Working together with M Health Fairview and Epic, the algorithm will be available at no cost to other health systems through Epic, the medical records software used by many health care organizations across the country. Today, all 12 M Health Fairview hospitals use the new algorithm.

When a patient arrives in the with suspected COVID-19 symptoms, clinicians order a chest X-ray as part of standard protocol. The automatically evaluates the X-ray as soon as the image is taken. If the algorithm recognizes patterns associated with COVID-19 in the chest X-ray—within seconds—the care team can see within Epic that the patient likely has the virus.

“This may help patients get treated sooner and prevent unintentional exposure to COVID-19 for staff and other patients in the emergency department,” said Christopher Tignanelli, MD, assistant professor of surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School and co-lead on the project. “This can supplement nasopharyngeal swabs and diagnostic testing, which currently face supply chain issues and slow turnaround times across the country.”

Tignanelli led the project with several key players, including Ju Sun, Ph.D., assistant professor at the U of M College of Science and Engineering; Erich Kummerfeld, Ph.D., research assistant professor at the U of M Institute of Health Informatics; Genevieve Melton-Meaux, MD, Ph.D., professor of surgery at the U of M Medical School and chief analytics and care innovation officer for M Health Fairview; and Tadashi Allen, MD, assistant professor of radiology at the U of M Medical School.

To develop the algorithm, the team led by Sun analyzed de-identified chest X-rays taken at M Health Fairview since

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Sputum Culture: MedlinePlus Medical Test

What is a sputum culture?

A sputum culture is a test that checks for bacteria or another type of organism that may be causing an infection in your lungs or the airways leading to the lungs. Sputum, also known as phlegm, is a thick type of mucus made in your lungs. If you have an infection or chronic illness affecting the lungs or airways, it can make you cough up sputum.

Sputum is not the same as spit or saliva. Sputum contains cells from the immune system that help fight the bacteria, fungi, or other foreign substances in your lungs or airways. The thickness of sputum helps trap the foreign material. This allows cilia (tiny hairs) in the airways to push it through the mouth and be coughed out.

Sputum can be one of several different colors. The colors can help identify the type of infection you may have or if a chronic illness has become worse:

  • Clear. This usually means no disease is present, but large amounts of clear sputum may be a sign of lung disease.
  • White or gray. This may also be normal, but increased amounts may mean lung disease.
  • Dark yellow or green. This often means a bacterial infection, such as pneumonia. Yellowish-green sputum is also common in people with cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease that causes mucus to build up in the lungs and other organs.
  • Brown. This often shows up in people who smoke. It is also a common sign of black lung disease. Black lung disease is a serious condition that can happen if you have long-term exposure to coal dust.
  • Pink. This may be a sign of pulmonary edema, a condition in which excess fluid builds up in the lungs. Pulmonary edema is common