Section: Application Domains
Development of a heart ventricle vessel generation model for perfusion analysis
Participant: Hugues Talbot (collaboration with L. Najman ESIEE Paris, I. Vignon-Clementel, REO Team leader, Inria, Charles Taylor, Heartflow Inc.)
Cardio-vascular diseases are the leading cause of mortality in the world. Understanding these diseases is a current, challenging and essential research project. The leading cause of heart malfunction are stenoses causing ischemia in the coronary vessels. Current CT and MRI technology can assess coronary diseases but are typically invasive, requiring catheterization and relatively toxic contrast agents injection. In collaboration with the REO team headed by Irène Vignon-Clementel, and Heartflow, a US based company, we have in the past worked to use image-based exams only, limiting the use of contrast agents and in many cases eliminating catheterisation. Heartflow is current the market leader in non-invasive coronary exams.
Unfortunately, current imaging technology is unable to assess the full length of coronary vessels. CT is limited to a resolution of about 1mm, whereas coronary vessels can be much smaller, down to about 10 micrometers in diameter. Blood perfusion throughout the heart muscle can provide insight regarding coronary health in areas that CT or MRI cannot assess. Perfusion imaging with PET or a Gamma camera, the current gold standard, is an invasive technology requiring the use of radioactive tracers.
We have investigated patient-specific vessel generation models together with porous model simulations in order to propose a forward model of perfusion imaging, based on the known patient data, computer flow dynamic simulations as well as experimental data consistent with known vessel and heart muscle physiology. The objective of this work is to both provide a useful, complex forward model of perfusion image generation, and to solve the inverse problem of locating and assessing coronary diseases given a perfusion exam, even though the affected vessels may be too small to be imaged directly.
In 2019, we have produced a functional myocardial perfusion model consisting of the CT-derived segmented coronary vessels, a simulated vessel tree consisting of several thousands of terminal vessels, filling the myocardium in a patient-specific way, consistent with physiology data, physics-based and empirically-observed vessel growth rules, and a porous medium. We have produced a CFD code capable of simulating blood flow in all three coupled compartments, which allows us to simulate perfusion realistically.