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Virtual hearts help cardiac doctors to get treatment right first time

Philips Research Eindhoven : 20 August, 2008  (Company News)
A major new EU-funded research project, led by Philips Research, is developing the technology further so clinicians can also map the electrical and muscle activity within the heart.
As a result of the project doctors could soon be able to perform minimally invasive surgery on virtual versions of people’s hearts to help ensure they make the best decisions for their patients before doing the procedure for real.

Computer technology has been developed that enables clinicians to create computer models of the heart, which not only reflect the individual anatomical make-up of the patient’s real organ, but can also mimic accurately its movement as it beats.

In future clinicians should be able to work out the likely impact of different treatment options and so devise the best therapy for an individual patient.

The models could help improve treatment of patients with heart failure, coronary artery disease and congenital heart defects. Another area in which it could be useful is in the case of rhythm disorders where doctors during a so-called minimally invasive procedure may use heat to destroy areas of tissue and restore the normal beat. Currently doctors rely on experience to decide which areas to target however this is a challenge as electrical activity in a person’s heart is subtly different. With a computer model which perfectly matches the patient’s anatomy and mimics the electrical activity of their heart, doctors could instead know in advance the likely impact of destroying specific areas of tissue and so work out the likely success of the treatment for a patient.

The models are created by combining data from existing diagnostic technologies such as CT, MRI, ECGs as well as measuring blood flow and pressure in the coronary arteries.

The euHeart project involves public and private partners from 16 research, academic, industrial and medical organizations from six different European countries - Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, France and the UK. The project will run for four years and has a budget of Euros 19 million of which Euros 14 million will be provided by the EU.

Professor Reza Razavi, professor of paediatric cardiovascular science and head of its Division of Imaging Sciences at King’s College London in the UK, which is one of the consortium members, said: “euHeart is a very exciting project that will bring together the latest advances in modelling and computing to improve the care of patients with heart disease. It may ultimately allow us to select and optimise the best treatment for individual patients.”

Henk van Houten, senior vice president of Philips Research and head of the Healthcare Research programme, said: “In the euHeart project we are confident that we can make a real contribution to improving the treatment of one of the most important world’s killer diseases. The development of computer models that integrate structural and functional information of the heart and then personalise it to individual patients is a mammoth task that will require the multi-disciplinary effort of researchers with strong know-how in biophysical modelling and image processing, clinical experts and engineers in the device and imaging industries.”

The euHeart project complements the recently announced EU-funded HeartCycle project also led by Philips which focuses on the long term care of chronic heart disease patients.

Cardiovascular disease kills around 1.9 million people every year in the EU with the associated health costs estimated to be Euros 105 billion.
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