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Virtual heart to train doctors

The first ever fully functioning virtual heart has been created, allowing hospital doctors to be taught cardiac procedures with the benefit of a 3D model.

The real-time, computer-generated heart simulator will bring these medical techniques into the 21st century, its creators claim.

Dr Andrew Smith, Dr Sue Wright and Dr Bruce Martin, at London’s University College Hospital (UCH), came up with the idea to overcome the difficulties of teaching complex medical techniques.

The doctors – all anaesthetists at UCH’s Heart Hospital – teach doctors around the country and abroad on how to assess the state of a patient’s heart during and after surgery using ultrasound scans, or echocardiography.

“It’s been an ongoing problem to teach these techniques and try and help people understand the 3D structure of the heart while they are looking at images of it on a 2D screen,” Dr Smith said.

“We hope to accelerate and improve cardiac education so that students can learn away from the operating theatre before they start interacting with patients,” he said.

“I think this will change the way anatomy is taught and we would like to think that medical schools and hospitals around the world will see it as the new standard way of training.”

The virtual heart, which has been two-and-a-half years in the making, was built by London-based post production company Glassworks.

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University College London Hospitals