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Surgical Planning Software Simulates Cardiac Blood Flow

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 02 Mar 2017
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Image: A simulation showing blood flowing through the heart of a baby born with a defect (Photo courtesy of Marsden Lab / Stanford University).
Image: A simulation showing blood flowing through the heart of a baby born with a defect (Photo courtesy of Marsden Lab / Stanford University).
A new technique uses imaging data and specialized simulation software to predict the prospective results of heart surgery.

Under development at Stanford University, SimVascular is an open source software that integrates custom code with open source packages to support clinical treatment and basic science research. SimVascular uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) imaging data to construct a three-dimensional (3D) anatomical model of the heart, and afterwards simulates the patient’s blood flow using advanced tools to determine physiologic boundary conditions and fluid structure interaction.

The software includes an efficient finite element Navier-Stokes flow solver for complex geometries, and has already been used to create computational models of normal and diseased human cardiovascular and pulmonary anatomy, with concurrent input and output boundary conditions for various physiologic states. The vascular model repository--a sister project of SimVascular--will help simulate cardiovascular and pulmonary solid and fluid mechanics, providing spatially and temporally-resolved benchmark solutions for academic, government, and industry researchers to verify their computational methods.

“When you come into the hospital and get scanned in the MRI machine or a CT scanner, what we often get is a beautiful picture of your anatomy,” said professor of pediatrics and bioengineering Alison Marsden, PhD, of the Stanford Cardiovascular Biomechanics Computational Lab. “But we don’t get often this detailed picture of how the blood is flowing, recirculating, and moving through the blood vessels. And we also can’t use the imaging to make predictions.”

“Many surgeons now use a pencil and paper to sketch out their surgical plan based on the patient’s images,” added Professor Marsden. “What we’re trying to do is bring in that missing piece of what are these detailed blood flow patterns and what might happen if we go in and make an intervention; for example, opening up a blocked blood vessel or putting in a bypass graft.”

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