Modelling a work of heart

The VIRTUheart™ project has a vision to construct a comprehensive model of coronary physiology that delivers accurate, reliable, robust information helping Doctors make better-informed and more accurate decisions about how to treat their patients with coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease is the world’s leading cause of death and serious illness and is caused by a build-up of atherosclerosis inside the coronary arteries which impedes blood flow to the myocardium (heart muscle). Coronary artery disease causes angina, heart attacks, and is the commonest cause of heart failure.

Sheffield is leading the way with mapping the human body using software so that treatment can be tailored to each individual patient. VIRTUheart™ is a computer model which provides physiological and anatomical information about diseased coronary arteries. Angiogram images are used to create 3D virtual representations of the coronary arteries which inform computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis.

The result is an analysis of pressure dynamics inside the coronary arteries. This does not require invasive measurement with a wire, nor the induction of hyperaemic flow, two things which are thought to limit uptake of standard FFR measurement. This enables doctors to have much more detailed information available to them in order to make decisions regarding their patient’s treatment and condition.

VIRTUheart™ has already undergone preliminary testing in the VIRTU-1 study where it delivered 97% overall accuracy in detecting significant, versus non-significant, coronary artery disease. The VIRTU-2 study is currently underway. In this study, VIRTUheart™ will undergo further development and testing so that it delivers:

  • enhanced accuracy
  • accelerated computation
  • a user-friendly interface
  • validation in complex and multi-vessel coronary disease

VIRTUheart™ is a collaboration between clinical academic Cardiologists from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and engineers and physicists from the University of Sheffield. The assembled team are also members of the INSIGNEO Institute for In Silico Medicine. The project received funding from the Wellcome Trust and Department of Health in 2012 and runs until 2015. Dr Paul Morris, a BHF Clinical Fellow said “This is the first step in a continuing journey to improve patient care using in silico techniques and, as a clinician, I am excited about what the future holds”.