Personalized virtual heart can predict the risk of sudden cardiac death
Our team developed a non-invasive, 3-D virtual heart assessment tool to help doctors determine a patient's risk of life-threatening arrhythmia and which patients would benefit most from a defibrillator implant. The details were published in Nature Communications.
The virtual heart methodology classified one patient as high risk of developing a life-threatening arrhythmia, and the other as low risk. Top panels show the geometric replicas of the patient hearts, reconstructed from their MRI scans. Shown is normal tissue as well as injured tissue left by an earlier heart attack in each heart. The injured tissue consists of scar and a semi-viable border zone between normal tissue and scar (also called gray zone because of its gray appearance in the MRI scan). Bottom panels show propagation of electrical wave in the virtual hearts, with lines representing times at which the electrical wave arrived at given locations in the heart (called activation times). In the low-risk heart, despite the presence of injury, the electrical wave swept uniformly through the heart, triggering strong uniform contraction and blood pumping. In the high-risk heart, arrhythmia developed. The electrical wave was "stuck" at the scar, rotating around it over and over again, which is called arrhythmia (arrows show direction of rotation, i.e. the arrhythmia "circuit"). The rotation wave was unable to cause coordinated contraction and prevented the heart from pumping blood effectively, which results in sudden cardiac death unless a defibrillation shock is given.