Hand-held ultrasound developer Butterfly Network has obtained a new clearance from the FDA for an artificial intelligence program to help front-line technicians scan for impaired lung function.
Using a six-second video clip, the software aims to spot the signs of excess wetness in the lungs that can hinder the ability to breathe—a potential harbinger of acute infections like pneumonia and COVID-19 or long-term conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure.
“Our goal at Butterfly is to give healthcare practitioners, and eventually consumers, a real time full color, annotated, window into the human body” through the use of AI, Jonathan Rothberg, Ph.D., Butterfly’s founder and interim CEO, said in a release.
To train its algorithms, Butterfly tapped into its cloud-based repository of more than 3.5 million de-identified ultrasound clips gathered from across the U.S.
The latest program automates the counting of what are known as B-lines: the appearance of bright, vertical artifacts in an ultrasound image that come with changes in lung density. A higher number of B-line echoes can indicate the presence of fluids as well as less air within the lung pockets.
Previously a manual and more subjective process, Butterfly’s Auto B-line Counter algorithm assigns numbers to the B-lines and compares them to the ultrasound shadows produced by the rib cage. Butterfly said it hopes to launch its Auto B-line Counter in early summer.
Butterfly previously teamed up with ultrasound AI developer Caption Health to bring automated programs to its hand-held, smartphone-connected probe, including guidance programs that coach users through conducting a heart scan. That software will be wrapped up in Butterfly’s Blueprint enterprise platform for hospitals, which also integrates the probes with electronic medical records.
“The desired end state is Butterfly is as ubiquitous as a stethoscope,” Darius Shahida, the company’s strategy and business development chief, told Fierce Medtech in an interview at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference earlier this year.