New Virtual Reality technology to repair hearts

The new virtual reality (VR) technology we fund can improve outcomes for thousands of patients who undergo surgery or keyhole procedures each year for congenital heart disease.

Every day in the UK, about 13 babies are diagnosed with congenital heart disease – a heart disease that develops in the womb before birth. Depending on the severity of their condition, they may need one or more treatments to help their hearts work properly.

Creating a digital double of the heart

The technology, developed by researchers at Evelina Children’s Hospital in London and King’s College London, combines a scan commonly used to plan surgery for congenital heart disease to create a three-dimensional digital double heart.

The researchers hope that using virtual reality to plan and practice procedures will reduce work time and reduce the need for multiple surgeries, leading to better outcomes and experiences for patients and their families. They hope that over the next two years it may be in normal use.

Tests of an early version of the technology, which used only an echocardiogram (ultrasound scan of the heart) to create a VR heart, found that surgeons preferred it to understand their patient’s heart anatomy. They also reported that it boosted their confidence and improved decision making.

Ten-year-old Rosie from London was born with a complex congenital heart disease, she needed two surgeries. We caught up with her and her family when she tested the new technology for herself.

Learn more about Rosie’s story.

Our funding has supported researchers to add two more types of scans to the system – computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Although these types of scans are regularly used to schedule operations, they are usually only viewed on a flat screen.

New exciting technology

Our Deputy Medical Director, Dr. Sonia Babu-Narayan, said:

“Congenital heart defects are the most common cause of birth defects in children born in the UK. Every year, thousands of surgeries and other procedures are performed on children and adults with congenital heart disease to stop the development of heart failure. Some people will need several treatments throughout their lives.

“This new technology can help make surgery for congenital heart disease even more successful. It can also help people better understand the abnormalities of the heart or blood vessels they are born with, and what is being proposed to correct them, that can expand opportunities for people living with congenital heart disease. ”

The technology has also received significant funding from the charity Evelina London Children’s Charity.

We have launched a campaign that calls on the public to support energy science, which can lead to new treatments for all diseases of the heart and circulation.

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