Artificial intelligence in brachytherapy: a summary of recent developments

Br J Radiol. 2021 Apr 29;20200842. doi: 10.1259/bjr.20200842. Online ahead of print.


Artificial intelligence (AI) applications, in the form of machine learning and deep learning, are being incorporated into practice in various aspects of medicine, including radiation oncology. Ample evidence from recent publications explores its utility and future use in external beam radiotherapy. However, the discussion on its role in brachytherapy is sparse. This article summarizes available current literature and discusses potential uses of AI in brachytherapy, including future directions. AI has been applied for brachytherapy procedures during almost all steps, starting from decision-making till treatment completion. AI use has led to improvement in efficiency and accuracy by reducing the human errors and saving time in certain aspects. Apart from direct use in brachytherapy, AI also contributes to contemporary advancements in radiology and associated sciences that can affect brachytherapy decisions and treatment. There is a renewal of interest in brachytherapy as a technique in recent years, contributed largely by the understanding that contemporary advances such as intensity modulated radiotherapy and stereotactic external beam radiotherapy cannot match the geometric gains and conformality of brachytherapy, and the integrated efforts of international brachytherapy societies to promote brachytherapy training and awareness. Use of AI technologies may consolidate it further by reducing human effort and time. Prospective validation over larger studies and incorporation of AI technologies for a larger patient population would help improve the efficiency and acceptance of brachytherapy. The enthusiasm favoring AI needs to be balanced against the short duration and quantum of experience with AI in limited patient subsets, need for constant learning and re-learning to train the AI algorithms, and the inevitability of humans having to take responsibility for the correctness and safety of treatments.