Virtual heart can predict Cardiac arrhythmia in 3D

Posted on May 12, 2016 12:40 am

Last evening, I was reading an interesting tools development that can help determine likelihood of arrhythmia in a proof of concept study published in the online journal Nature Communications by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.Lead researcher Professor Natalia Trayanova said: “This non-invasive and personalised virtual heart-risk assessment could help prevent sudden cardiac deaths and allow patients who are not at risk to avoid unnecessary defibrillator implantations.” The system, called Virtual-heart Arrhythmia Risk Predictor (VARP), uses MRI scan results to build patient-specific digital replicas of damaged hearts.Researchers found that it was more precise than more invasive methods for diagnosing heart risk and suggests some patients could avoid the implantation of defibrillators.They designed the virtual VARP using MRI scans of patients’ hearts, which are assembled into a 3D representation of the organ. Using representations of the electrical processes in cardiac cells and communication between them, they incorporated the shape of a patient’s heart, how electrical waves move through it and the impact of any scar tissue in making predictions about future cardiac events. “We demonstrated that VARP is better than any other arrhythmia prediction method that is out there,” Natalia Trayanova, a professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, said.

Graphic illustration by lead researcher Professor Natalia Trayanova
Graphic illustration by lead researcher Professor Natalia Trayanova

“By accurately predicting which patients are at risk of sudden cardiac death, the VARP approach will provide the doctors with a tool to identify those patients who truly need the costly implantable device and those for whom the device would not provide any life-saving benefits.”Co author Dr Katherine Wu, from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said it was a groundbreaking development, as cardiologists were now able to use all the data they collect to provide individualised care.Building a model heart, doctors are “able to test the heart virtually to see how irritable it is under certain situations” without needing the patient to undergo an invasive procedure, Wu said.Researchers used MRI scans for 41 patients who survived a heart attack but developed scar tissue that increases the risk for arrhythmia.Each of the patients was scheduled to have a defibrillator implanted in their heart. Using MRI scans of the patients’ hearts, the researchers ran VARP. All 41 had an ejection fraction, the measure of blood being pumped out of the heart, at levels low enough to necessitate a defibrillator.Patients whose VARP results predicted arrhythmia also were four times more likely to develop one, results researchers said were four to five times better than measuring ejection fraction or other predictions of risk.”Our virtual heart test significantly outperformed several existing clinical metrics in predicting future arrhythmic events,” Trayanova said. “This non-invasive and personalized virtual heart-risk assessment could help prevent sudden cardiac deaths and allow patients who are not at risk to avoid unnecessary defibrillator implantations.”

Contador Harrison