The technology could save thousands of lives while improving treatment for almost half of patients, boffins at the University of Oxford said.
The study, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), looked at how AI might improve the accuracy of cardiac CT scans, which detect blockages or narrowing in the arteries.
BHF chair of cardiovascular medicine, Prof Charalambos Antoniades, said: “Our study found that some patients presenting in hospital with chest pain -- who are often reassured and sent back home -- are at high risk of having a heart attack in the next decade, even in the absence of any sign of disease in their heart arteries.
“Here, we demonstrated that providing an accurate picture of risk to clinicians can alter, and potentially improve, the course of treatment for many heart patients.”
More than 350,000 people in the UK have a CT scan each year, but according to the BHF, many patients later die of heart attacks due to their failure to pick up small, undetectable narrowing.
Researchers analysed the data of more than 40,000 patients undergoing routine cardiac CT scans at eight UK hospitals, with a median follow-up time of 2.7 years.
The AI tool was tested on a further 3,393 patients over almost eight years and could accurately predict the risk of a heart attack. AI-generated risk scores were presented to medics for 744 patients, with 45 per cent having their treatment plans altered by doctors.