ECT can help depression
By Matthew Staff
The controversial procedure of inducing an electronically produced seizure in depression sufferers has now been shown to have empirical validity, according to scientists at the University of Aberdeen.
For years, ECT has been surrounded by severe criticism and controversy due to the level of distress it has to put on a patient’s body to possibly achieve results. Because of this, and the lack of hardcore evidence to prove a strict link to depression, the therapy has been widely discredited amongst experts.
However, clinicians in Scotland can now show that ECT treatment can turn down connectivity between the areas of the brain that are thought to control the mood aspects of a person’s personality.
By doing this, it is hoped that the individual’s symptoms would subside relatively quickly as a consequence of the hyper connectivity being reduced.
This hyper connectivity refers to the link between the emotional nerve centre and the mood changing parts of the brain, and contrary to previously common misconception, up to 85 percent of sufferers have been seen to recover completely from their symptoms.
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The treatment is still likely to have its critics, however, until there is more evidence to suggest that depression sufferers won’t relapse further down the line.
This has been a constant downfall to the current popular treatments such as psychotherapy and antidepressants. Both have enjoyed success in reducing the symptoms, if not curing the patient altogether. But as yet, neither has been able to ensure that the illness won’t return, and like most medicinal drugs, antidepressants are also met with trepidation by the general public.
Aberdeen’s finest are now confident though, that they may have made a genuine breakthrough in the overall treatment of the disease.
“As far as we know no-one has extended that 'connectivity' idea about depression into an arena where you can show a treatment clearly treating depression, changing brain connectivity,” said Ian Reed, professor of psychiatry at the University of Aberdeen.
"For the first time we can point to something that ECT does in the brain that makes sense in the context of what we think is wrong in people who are depressed,” he continued.
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Skin Analytics wins NHSX award for AI skin cancer tool
An artificial intelligence-driven tool that identifies skin cancers has received an award from NHSX, the NHS England and Department of Health and Social Care's initiative to bring technology into the UK's national health system.
NHSX has granted the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award to DERM, an AI solution that can identify 11 types of skin lesion.
Developed by Skin Analytics, DERM analyses images of skin lesions using algorithms. Within primary care, Skin Analytics will be used as an additional tool to help doctors with their decision making.
In secondary care, it enables AI telehealth hubs to support dermatologists with triage, directing patients to the right next step. This will help speed up diagnosis, and patients with benign skin lesions can be identified earlier, redirecting them away from dermatology departments that are at full capacity due to the COVID-19 backlog.
Cancer Research has called the impact of the pandemic on cancer services "devastating", with a 42% drop in the number of people starting cancer treatment after screening.
DERM is already in use at University Hospitals Birmingham and Mid and South Essex Health & Care Partnership, where it has led to a significant reduction in unnecessary referrals to hospital.
Now NHSX have granted it the Phase 4 AI in Health and Care Award, making DERM available to clinicians across the country. Overall this award makes £140 million available over four years to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence technologies which meet the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Dr Lucy Thomas, Consultant Dermatologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said: “Skin Analytics’ receipt of this award is great news for the NHS and dermatology departments. It will allow us to gather real-world data to demonstrate the benefits of AI on patient pathways and workforce challenges.
"Like many services, dermatology has severe backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award couldn't have come at a better time to aid recovery and give us more time with the patients most in need of our help.”