Research Centre Spotlight: Big Data Enterprise and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

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The Big-DEAL team

Big Data Enterprise and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (Big-DEAL) is a first of its kind commercial innovation laboratory, that brings together experts from academia and industry to develop cross-disciplinary innovative digital solutions to solve real-world problems.

A research centre situated within the Bristol Business School in the College of Business and Law, they specialise in the infrastructure, engineering, construction, operations and facility management sectors.

Dr Muhammad Bilal, of Big-DEAL is working on a ground-breaking and life saving project to utilise AI to revolutionise Heart surgeries by changing how surgeons review and develop their work, in partnership with Bristol University and Bristol Heart Institute. Find out more about his work below:

The background

Over 2 million cardiac surgical procedures are performed yearly around the world to treat people with heart disease. Heart surgery is a challenging procedure that requires a great deal of skill and ability to work in a highly intense clinical environment. A small error during the operation could result in lifelong complications, if not death.

Surgeons’ technical skills play a crucial role in the success of heart surgery. It is therefore essential that these skills be regularly reviewed to ensure that surgeons continue to operate safely and to reduce post-operative complications and patient harm.

Traditionally, expert surgeons review junior surgeons’ performance by either shadowing their operations or reviewing selected extracts of their operation recordings to produce a report that is saved as part of the trainee surgeon’s portfolio. This process is time-consuming, highly subjective, and does not ensure a comprehensive review of the surgeon’s skills, and technical ability.

Currently the UK has only 400 heart surgeons. The pressure of the role, ever increasing demand and the need to constantly develop and review oneself and others work means burn out rates within this field are high.

What has AI got to do with this?

The project team believe that recent advances in AI present fair and scalable methods for solving this challenge, and are partnering with world-renowned cardiac surgeons to create the advancements in heart surgery so desperately needed.

Using IVA-HEART, the AI and advanced data analytics programme as a personal digital assistant, surgeons can rapidly review surgical recordings to assess technical skills, receive timely feedback and learn about the training needs of surgeons. This solution will help reduce the risk of adverse events and poor patient outcomes as well as train the next generation of cardiac surgeons.

This is a game-changing proposition that targets an unmet yet critical healthcare challenge

Insights from Focus Group

What have we done so far?

Dr Muhammad Bilal has been working with the surgeon partners to develop and learn what would work for surgeons in the field. Looking at how to develop the technology to truly support and enable all surgeons to thrive using the technology. The work has been recognised as critical throughout the industry as well as amongst funders. The project is currently at Technolgy Readiness Level 3 (TRL3), this is a pivotal milestone that allows us to submit for validation for minimally invasive mitral valve repair (adult) and aortic correction (paediatric) surgeries.

Some of our Key achievements and milestones

Presented IVA HEART research idea to BHF Program Grant Funding Panel 

Awarded VC challenge fund for IVA HEART to kickstart technical feasibility 

Participated in MICCAI Surgical Tools Detection Challenge (UWE TeamZERO Ranked 7th and has been invited for joint publication will be submitted in Feb 2023). They presented their approach at the MICCAI 2022 conference in Singapore. 

Submitted the manuscript titled: SegCrop: Segmentation-based Dynamic Cropping of Endoscopic Videos to Address Label Leakage in Surgical Tool Detection to IEEE International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging (IEEE ISBI 2023), April 18-21, 2023 · Colombia 

Submitted the manuscript titled: Harnessing Secure and Robust AI-XR Surgical Metaverses to Revitalize Interventional Care to IEEE International Conference on Metaverse Computing, Networking and Applications (IEEE MetaCom 2023), June 26-28, 2023 · Kyoto, Japan 

Awarded QUBUS digital health accelerator award for market discovery (Queens University, UKRI, Innovate UK, and Kainos LLP). The market discovery research has been completed. 

Pitched the idea to NHS innovation lead and other venture capitalists and industry leaders during market discovery 

Presented and validated the IVA-HEART project by the UK society for cardiothoracic surgeons on 24th October 2022 

Presented and validated by the British and Irish Minimally Invasive Conference (BISMICS) community. 

Where next?

The project is currently at TRL3. The team are planning to validate it for minimally invasive mitral valve repair (adult) and aortic correction (paediatric) surgeries. This will allow them to develop the proof of concept and machine learning capability before moving onto application development.

If you would like to find out more please contact Dr Muhammad Bilal or his team. You can find the links to their UWE profiles below

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