Thursday, 9 July 2009

News: The heart of detection

A Bournemouth lecturer has discovered a new method of detecting heart defects, by using planet formation-modelling software.

The new technique has already helped surgeons at Bournemouth hospital to identify a potentially life threatening blood clot in a patient.

Geologist Nick Petford came across the idea when analysing how meteorites formed and the way in which liquid metal flowed within them.

Using image based modelling the meteorite was replaced by the heart, while the small cracks in the rock were replaced by the veins. Human blood then took the form of the liquid metal.

"If you have an image and you know fluid flows in it, you can solve the fluid flow for that specific geometry," said pro vice-chancellor Petford.

An MRI scan at Bournemouth hospital revealed a trapped flow of blood within the patient’s heart, but surgeons were unclear as to its whereabouts.

When the modelling software was implemented, led by Petford, the method correctly identified the location of the blood clot.

Although the technique is still in it’s formative stages, it could become commonplace within the industry in the future.

"The next step is to get funding to expand on the project. It could be good for a PHD student to take on."