Machine Learning and Medical Image Analysis for Point-of-Care Ultrasound Systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Engineering Science


Access to diagnostic ultrasound (US) in low and middle income countries (LMICs) is impeded because of a lack of experienced sonographers and the expertise required to scan well. Furthermore, conventional US systems carry the burden of high equipment costs reducing their feasibility for use in such environments. Statistics show that worldwide, 99% of maternal deaths occur in LMICs indicating an important unmet clinical need to provide US-based diagnosis [1]. Recent state-of-the-art advances have engineered low-cost US devices which show high potential for use in point-of-care (POC) scenarios. Similarly, advancements in machine learning architectures now offer superior performance over predicate solutions and open realms of possibility in computer pattern recognition of 2D US images and video. There is a real potential for automated computer analysis of US to be deployed within POC US systems in countries such as India as well as in Africa, thus addressing the skills crisis and diagnostic need.

The proposed doctoral research aims to develop and evaluate a novel automated image analysis framework that utilises a simplified US scanning protocol of multiple scanning sweeps to provide a clinical decision support tool for healthcare workers unfamiliar with ultrasound. 2D US images and video are rich in spatial-temporal features and acoustic patterns and the research will consider how these can be extracted and combined to good effect within machine learning architectures to reveal important pieces of clinical information. A first key challenge of this project will be to translate the clinical criteria, obtained from the literature and clinical collaborators, into a machine learning framework. A second challenge will be how to design and implement appropriate machine learning architecture for the chosen clinical tasks. A deep learning approach is most likely to be a feasible method. Finally, feasibility studies will be performed in collaboration with clinical partners in the UK and India to evaluate the developed methods and consider the potential usability in practice.

The research falls within the EPSRC's 'Healthcare Technologies' and 'Engineering' research themes. In particular, the research develops work within 'Image and Vision Computing', 'Human-Computer Interaction', and 'Medical Imaging' sub-themes. The research also fits into the EPSRC Grand Challenges through 'Transforming Community Health and Care' and 'Optimising Treatment'.

The doctoral research will be conducted associated with the GCRF-funded CALOPUS Project (Computer-Assisted Low-cost Point-of-Care Ultrasound: EP/R013853/1) which is a joint collaboration between the Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME) and Nuffield Department of Women's and Reproductive Health, University of Oxford, and the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), Faridabad, India.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R513295/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2023
2288295 Studentship EP/R513295/1 01/10/2019 31/03/2023 Alexander Darius Gleed