Research into AI and medical scanning to improve diagnosis of endometriosis in women

February 2, 2022


A study into how AI and cutting-edge medical scanning techniques could support women suffering with endometriosis, through faster and less invasive diagnosis, is starting to recruit patients. 

Researchers are aiming to sign up 100 patients at King’s Fertility clinic who have been experiencing the condition, which affects one in 10 women of childbearing age.  

Symptoms of endometriosis include significant pelvic and abdominal pain during menstruation, painful intercourse and spontaneous pain outside menstruation. In some cases, it can be linked to infertility. 

The definitive diagnosis of endometriosis is done by laparoscopic inspection of the pelvis which is invasive and involves keyhole surgery. Other less invasive methods may be used, including ultrasound and MRI scanning. 

The study is funded by the National Consortium of Intelligent Medical Imaging (NCIMI) and is being executed by a partnership between King’s Fertility and Perspectum and GE Healthcare.  

“I am truly excited that the first patients for the DEFEND project have been recruited and are having their first scans and surgical procedures. 

 This project will fuse information from ultrasound and MRI together to better diagnose endometriosis. Although each of these methods on their own have individual limitations, it is possible that if the separate results are combined, more accurate information could be provided to the clinician. 

This might result in a better and faster diagnosis, leading to quicker and more successful treatment for this poorly diagnosed condition that affects millions of women world-wide. More accurate information can lead to better personalisation of treatment, which ultimately may lead to improved patient outcomes.” 

Chief Investigator Dr Ippokratis Sarris, Consultant in Reproductive Medicine and Director of King’s Fertility

“I am acutely aware of the detrimental impact this condition has on the lives of so many women of all ages. Practitioners can often dismiss, or even ignore symptoms, leading to significant delays in endometriosis diagnosis. To cope with this debilitating condition women need open access to faster modalities for diagnosis as well as appropriate treatments hallmarked by compassionate care and support. 

 Perspectum itself is an ‘Endometriosis Friendly Employer’, and are taking immediate action to support our colleagues who are living with this condition. 

 The DEFEND study is an exciting collaboration between NCIMI, Perspectum and GE Healthcare that is looking at novel non-invasive imaging modalities to improve diagnoses. We are prioritising using our technologies to provide a rapid alternative diagnostic pathway for women with the objective of significantly reducing the current average waiting time of 8 long years to endometriosis diagnosis and subsequent management and treatment.” 

Professor Sally Collins, Clinical Lead for Women’s Health at Perspectum

 “Ultrasound is a key tool in the diagnosis of endometriosis. Our contribution will be to analyse the ultrasound images to hopefully find ways of speeding up diagnosis of this painful condition. We are thrilled to be taking part in this study and to learn together and from each other.”  

Barbara Del Prince, Director, Global Product and Clinical Management, Women’s Health Ultrasound, GE Healthcare

DEFEND –  Developing an US-MRI-biomarker fusion model for Endometriosis – aims to develop a database of ultrasound and MRI images for women with symptoms of endometriosis.  

It will explore the effectiveness of using 2D and 3D ultrasound and MRI scanning, as well as develop prototype algorithms for reading the scans. 

“This is an important study for NCIMI to be funding because it is working to address unmet need for the many women in the UK who are living with this painful condition.  

 We believe latest technology in medical scanning, together with developing powerful new algorithms, could be key in unlocking more efficient diagnosis for patients. We’ve brought together a powerful partnership of industry and medical experts to carry out this research.” 

Dr Mark Beggs, COO of NCIMI

Recruitment of patients to take part in the DEFEND study began in January 2022 and will continue for 6 months. Participants will be recruited from those patients on the surgical waiting list at the Gynaecology and Reproductive Medicine Clinic at King’s Fertility.