During the past 18 months, our Unit has had a large input into the development of a computer animated Virtual Heart Model (www.heartworks.me.uk)

The project started from an initial idea from three Anesthetists at the UCL Heart Hospital who wanted to the create a simulator for teaching Trans-oesophageal Echocardiography. In order to work properly, the model needed to be anatomically correct in every respect and required the input of many specialists. The anatomic building blocks for the project, however, were provided by the Cardiac Morphology unit at UCL, Institute of Child Health, supported by the British Heart Foundation.

The starting point for the development was a cast of a normal heart which was laser-scanned in 3-dimensions to give a basic dataset of the right and left sides of the heart. These were then brought together virtually and using additional information from cardiac specimens, and our anatomic expertise, the finer detail was carefully modelled. It took hours of work to complete the basic model, after which animation was a major challenge using additional reference information from Echocardiograms, CT and MRI. In order to get the virtual anatomy correct we worked very closely modelers and animators from the company Glassworks, to describe the morphology of the heart in structural rather than medical terms.

Since its initial inception, a company Inventive Medical Ltd has been formed by Glassworks and UCL Special Trustees to oversee future developments.

Work on the TOE simulator has now been completed and is in its beta-testing stage. It is envisaged that from the normal model, abnormalities could be easily developed by future collaboration between the company and the Cardiac Morphology Unit at UCL.

Take a look at the website www.heartworks.me.uk