Artificial intelligence in anesthesiology


Artificial Intelligence, Anesthesia, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Neural networks, Chatbots, Automation, Decision support systems

Published online: Sep 20 2023

F. Gheysen1, S. Rex2

1 University Hospitals of Leuven, Department of Anesthesiology, Herestraat 49, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
2 University Hospitals of Leuven, Department of Anesthesiology, Herestraat 49, 3000 Leuven, Belgium. Associate Professor of Anesthesia, Dpt. of Cardiovascular Sciences, KU Leuven


Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly evolving and gaining attention in the medical world. Our aim is to provide readers with insights into this quickly changing medical landscape and the role of clinicians in the middle of this popular technology. In this review, our aim is to explain some of the increasingly frequently used AI terminology explicitly for physicians. Next, we give a summation, an overview of currently existing applications, future possibilities for AI in the medical field of anesthesiology and thoroughly highlight possible problems that could arise from implementing this technology in daily practice.

Therefore, we conducted a literature search, including all types of articles published between the first of January 2010 and the 1st of May 2023, written in English, and having a free full text available. We searched Pubmed, Medline, and Embase using “artificial intelligence”, “machine learning”, “deep learning”, “neural networks” and “anesthesiology” as MESH terms.

To structure these findings, we divided the results into five categories: preoperatively, perioperatively, postoperatively, AI in the intensive care unit and finally, AI used for teaching purposes. In the first category, we found AI applications for airway assessment, risk prediction, and logistic support. Secondly, we made a summation of AI applications used during the operation. AI can predict hypotensive events, delivering automated anesthesia, reducing false alarms, and aiding in the analysis of ultrasound anatomy in locoregional anesthesia and echocardiography. Thirdly, namely postoperatively, AI can be applied in predicting acute kidney injury, pulmonary complications, postoperative cognitive dysfunction and can help to diagnose postoperative pain in children.

At the intensive care unit, AI tools discriminate acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) from pulmonary oedema in pleural ultrasound, predict mortality and sepsis more accurately, and predict survival rates in severe Coronavirus-19 (COVID-19). Finally, AI has been described in training residents in spinal ultrasound, simulation, and plexus block anatomy.

Several concerns must be addressed regarding the use of AI. Firstly, this software does not explain its decision process (i.e., the ‘black box problem’). Secondly, to develop AI models and decision support systems, we need big and accurate datasets, unfortunately with potential unknown bias. Thirdly, we need an ethical and legal framework before implementing this technology. At the end of this paper, we discuss whether this technology will be able to replace the clinician one day.

This paper adds value to already existing literature because it not only offers a summation of existing literature on AI applications in anesthesiology but also gives clear definitions of AI itself and critically assesses implementation of this technology.