Scientists to create virtual hearts for treating congenital heart condition
A new study carried outby King's College London is looking to create virtual heart avatarsto aid in the treatment of a serious congenital heart defect thataffects thousands of newborns. The condition, known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), is known to affect roughly one in 5,000 newbornseach year.
For babies sufferingfrom HLHS, structures within the heart including the left ventricle,the mitral valves and the aortic valve fail to develop duringpregnancy, or are too small to operate properly. This makes it verydifficult for the heart to pump the oxygen-rich blood around the bodywith the ability of a healthy heart, leading to trouble breathing, aweak pulse, and blue-ish skin.
We do not yet know whatfactors cause HLHS, but a series of developments in medical practicehave improved how surgeons approach the problem. In spite of theseadvances many children still die, or are at least greatly affected bythe condition for the rest of their lives, even after the multiplesurgeries that are required within the first few years in order tomanage the disease.
Under normalcircumstances, medical practitioners hoping to tackle the conditionare hamstrung by the variations that can be exhibited by the disease,making it difficult to know which course of treatment would bestserve the patient.
The new study seeks togrant surgeons an unprecedented level of understanding of the diseaseon a case-by-case basis. Over the course of the study, an analysis ofMRI scans collected from over 150 babies will inform advancedcomputer programs to create a detailed 3D virtual avatar of eachbaby's heart, including the aorta.
It is hoped that theculmination of the research will grant surgeons the ability to asseseach patient on an individual basis, allowing for personalizedtreatment plans to become the norm, in which surgeons can observe apatient's heart before surgery, and monitor its post treatmentstatus.
Source: King's College London
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