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Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Virtual Heart Guides Defibrillator Placement in Kids With Heartbeat Defects

The small size and abnormal anatomy of children born with heart defects often force doctors to place lifesaving defibrillators entirely outside the heart, rather than partly inside — a less-than-ideal solution to dangerous heart rhythms that involves a degree of guesstimating and can compromise therapy.

Now, by marrying simple MRI images with sophisticated computer analysis, a team of Johns Hopkins researchers says it may be possible to take the guesswork out of the process by using a virtual 3-D heart model that analyzes a child’s unique anatomy and pinpoints the best location for the device before it is implanted.

A description of the team’s work is published ahead of print in The Journal of Physiology.

“Pediatric cardiologists have long sought a way to optimize device placement in this group of cardiac patients, and we believe our model does just that,” says lead investigator Natalia Trayanova, Ph.D., the Murray B. Sachs Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins. “It is a critical first step toward bringing computational analysis to the pediatric cardiology clinic.”

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Funding: The research was funded by the National Institute of Heart, Lung and Blood under grant number R01HL103428.



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