An intelligent computer system which can imitate doctors' decisions about treatment for intensive care patients is being developed by scientists.
The system will be used to treat patients after major surgery
It will monitor patients' vital signs and then evaluate and administer drugs - a job now done by specialist medics.
Decisions will be made in seconds - freeing up valuable time for doctors.
The system is being designed by a team of engineers at the University of Sheffield with a £400,000 grant from science funding agency EPSRC.
Team leader Professor Mahdi Mahfouf said the system's ability to learn, adapt and make informed decisions was unique.
"This new system not only monitors and treats critical patients, but it can also learn from the experiences of medical staff, who can override the machine at any time," he said.
If overridden, the system assimilates the doctor's input and uses the new information to make decisions about similar cases in the future.
It models all the possible interactions between different drugs and patients' bodies and then makes intelligent decisions about the best way to treat patients during heart bypass operations and post-operatively in the ITU.
"This system is not intended to replace the work that doctors do in intensive care units," Mr Mahfouf stressed.
"However it will provide them with invaluable assistance by evaluating the complex interactions of different drugs which are needed to treat patients and protect them against the danger of septic shock."