How can minimally invasive heart surgery be performed more effectively and more gently with the help of modern data and image processing algorithms? The Fraunhofer Institute for Medical Image Computing MEVISin Bremen is working on this question - and has already achieved decisive success.
The new software system is intended to support surgeons in planning minimally invasive heart valve operations.
"We work on new technological approaches that support diagnosis and therapy planning of cardiovascular diseases," says MEVIS researcher Anja Hennemuth. Since May 1, 2017, she has been a professor at the Institute for Imaging Science and Computational Modeling in Cardiovascular Medicine (ICM), a new joint institute of Charité and the German Heart Center in Berlin. At the institute, an interdisciplinary team of experts in cardiovascular medicine led by Prof. Titus Kühne and experts in biofluid mechanics under Associate Prof. Leonid Goubergrits works together with researchers in image-based therapy support towards new solutions for clinical decision support systems. Since 2009, Hennemuth has been the head of cardiovascular research and development at Fraunhofer MEVIS. She has accomplished groundbreaking work in the development of solutions for cardiovascular image analysis and image-based modeling that have been transferred into medical devices. In 2017, she was appointed to a joint professorship at the ICM and the Technical University of Berlin.
Her team developed a software system that supports surgeons in planning minimally invasive heart valve operations. One common procedure is to sew in a special ring to reduce the area that closes the heart valve. The goal is to stop the valve from leaking and to reduce the amount of blood that flows back into the atrium.
The new software should help clinicians estimate the chances of success and plan the type and course of the procedure more precisely. The experts can create a dynamic heart model based on the patient's MRI, CT, or ultrasound image data. As a result, they can observe the heart valve during different phases of the heartbeat on their monitors. In April, Hennemuth's colleague Lennart Tautz received a Karl-Heinz-Höhne prize, given for innovative developments in medical visualization, for programming the software module.
In a second stage, the software simulates a procedure during which a ring is sewn into a virtual heart, thus correcting or reducing heart valve insufficiency. "Subsequently, the system simulates the procedure's effect on the heart function," explains Anja Hennemuth. "We can assess how much easier the heart pumps now that the blood flows differently after inserting the ring." The surgeons can simulate different variations of the procedure to identify the most effective option.
A prototype of the software is currently being validated and results are being compared to actual patient outcome information. The researchers use image data acquired before and after a procedure. Afterwards, they simulate the procedure and examine to what extent the simulation matches the real data.
"So far, the results have been very good and the surgeons are satisfied," says Hennemuth. She hopes to implement the new method into a medical device within a few years. "The foundation of our success is the close interdisciplinary collaboration between Fraunhofer MEVIS, Charité, and the team of Prof. Volkmar Falk at the German Heart Center in Berlin." In the future, the team aims to transfer the method to other types of heart procedures.
MEDICA-tradefair.com; Source: Fraunhofer Institute for Medical Image Computing MEVIS