Watson helps treat heart disease by looking at medical images

IBM's cognitive computing now applies to imaging, too.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

IBM's Watson technology has helped doctors before, but usually by poring through databases before offering its advice. Now, it's ready to look at the patients themselves -- or rather, their body scans. It's following up on past promises by launching Watson Clinical Imaging Review, its first picture-based cognitive computing solution. The AI platform can sift through ultrasounds, x-rays and other medical data to both fill out health records and identify patients who might need critical care.

The imaging tech will first be used to diagnose patients with aortic stenosis, where the heart's aortic valve narrows and constricts blood flow. Watson will combine heart imagery with medical records to spot patients who might need follow-up treatments. The approach will eventually expand to cover heart attacks, heart muscle disease, deep vein thrombosis and valve disorders.

IBM won't make the solution widely available to health care facilities until later in the year, but it's hoping that the impact will be worth the wait. In a chat with Mashable, the company's Anne Le Grand says that Watson promises to improve both the quality and consistency of diagnoses. Both patients and doctors won't have to worry so much about issues going unaddressed until they become urgent.