Heart surgery

Evelina London and King’s College London develop virtual reality for heart surgery

Evelina London and King’s College London have joined forces to develop new virtual reality (VR) technology that allows surgeons to better prepare for heart surgeries.

The technology brings together scans to create a 3D digital image of the heart, which can be used by surgeons before procedures. By doing so, it can shorten operation times, reduce the need for multiple surgeries, and lead to better patient outcomes and experiences.

Surgeons who tested early versions of the software said it helped them better understand the structure of each patient’s heart, as the 3D imaging helped them fully immerse themselves in the image. Additionally, they were able to interact with and manipulate the images, as well as virtual reality trial options before the physical heart surgery itself.

Lead researcher Professor John Simpson, Consultant Pediatric and Fetal Cardiologist at Evelina London and King’s College London, said: “Heart anatomy repair procedures can be complex and surgeons don’t like surprises. Each patient’s condition has individual characteristics at their core. Our technology will allow surgeons to plan and perform these procedures, and we are currently seeking approval for it to be used in this way.

“We think this technology could also be used outside of congenital heart disease surgeries, to plan any procedure to fix a structural problem in the heart, such as valve surgery in an adult patient.”

Funding for the VR technology came from Evelina London Children’s Charity and the British Heart Foundation.

3D imaging of the heart was also introduced by NHS England last year, with its HeartFlow tool. This tool has the ability to turn regular cardiac CT scans into 3D images to allow clinicians a better view to aid in their diagnoses.