Heart disease remains the number one killer in Australia, affecting one in every six adults. Every nine minutes, a person suffers a heart attack.
University of Melbourne doctors and engineers have discovered a new tool that aims to reduce this toll, using supercomputers to create 3D models from heart disease patients with photos from a camera thinner than a human hair.
The images, gathered during a routine angiogram, are fed into a supercomputer. Within 24 hours, a model of a person’s artery is 3D printed. This gives cardiologists crucial information about the behaviour of blood flow and the precise structure of the artery from the inside. It also helps them make decisions about the best stent (the device used to hold open a collapsed or blocked artery) to insert.
The technique can also detect ‘hot spots’ for plaque, the waxy substance that builds up in arteries and causes heart disease. Some of these plaques have been difficult to find using traditional techniques.
According to Associate Professor, Peter Barlis, the models derived from supercomputers work in conjunction with heart scans to print out segments of the patient’s arteries in hope to tailor devices to fit them perfectly.
“No two arteries are shaped the same. We’re all different, with arteries that have different branches and sizes, tapering from larger to smaller. And much like debris accumulates along a riverbank, plaque can cling to certain areas of a person’s artery. So this technology really gives us a clearer picture of those areas,” Professor Barlis explains.
The findings from this study have promising potential for heart disease treatment developments, ultimately helping cardiologists to predict heart attacks.
Read more here: The University of Melbourne.