Artificial intelligence tool which is under development at Duke University , can be added to the standard toilet to help analyze patients' stool and give gastroenterologists the information they need to provide appropriate treatment as per a study selected for presentation at Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) 2021.
Chronic gastrointestinal issues such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be managed using this new technology.
"Typically, gastroenterologists have to rely on patient self-reported information about their stool to help determine the cause of their gastrointestinal health issues, which can be very unreliable. Patients often can't remember what their stool looks like or how often they have a bowel movement, which is part of the standard monitoring process. The Smart Toilet technology will allow us to gather the long-term information needed to make a more accurate and timely diagnosis of chronic gastrointestinal problems," says Deborah Fisher, MD, one of the lead authors on the study and associate professor of medicine at Duke University Durham, North Carolina.
The pipes of an existing toilet can be retrofitted with the technology. An image of the stool within the pipes will be then taken by the toilet once a person has a bowel movement and flushes. The data collected over time will provide a gastroenterologist a better understanding of a patient's stool form (i.e., loose, normal, or constipated) and the presence of blood, allowing them to diagnose the patient and provide the right treatment for their condition.
The present study analyzed 3,328 unique stool images found online or provided by research participants to develop the artificial intelligence image analysis tool for the Smart Toilet. The Bristol Stool Scale, a common clinical tool for classifying stool was utilized to review and annotate all the images by gastroenterologists.
A computationally efficient approach to convolutional neural networks (a type of deep learning algorithm that can analyze images) was utilized by the researchers. It was found that the algorithm accurately classified the stool form 85.1% of the time with 76.3% accuracy in gross blood detection.
"We are optimistic about patient willingness to use this technology because it's something that can be installed in their toilet's pipes and doesn't require the patient to do anything other than flush. An IBD flare-up could be diagnosed using the Smart Toilet and the patient's response to treatment could be monitored with the technology. This could be especially useful for patients who live in long-term care facilities who may not be able to report their conditions and could help improve initial diagnosis of acute conditions," says Sonia Grego, Ph.D., a lead researcher on the study and founding director of the Duke Smart Toilet Lab.
Additional features of the technology to include stool specimen sampling for biochemical marker analysis are further being worked upon by the study team, that will provide highly specific disease data to meet patients' and gastroenterologists' needs.