Written by Dr Muhammad Bilal
An ongoing collaboration between members of the UWE Bristol’s Big Data Enterprise and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (Big-DEAL) and the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences (HAS) seeks to address the limitations of minimally invasive cardiac surgery (MICVS) using artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR). MICVS, a surgical heart procedure which involves making small incisions in the right side of the chest to reach the heart through the ribs without cutting any bone is currently riddled with several challenges which restricts its uptake in cardiac centres across the UK. Some of these challenges have been linked to variations in normal as well as pathological anatomy which limits visualisation and exposure of key structures.
The project – AI for minimally invasive cardiac valve surgery (AI4MICVS) – stems from a joint funding between the Faculty of Business and Law (FBL) and HAS, and engages surgeons from the Bristol Heart Institute (BHI) to identify potential application areas of these technologies from pre-operative planning to post-surgery care.
The first discovery workshop with Professor Massimo Caputo, a professor of congenital heart surgery at BHI, and Dr Hunaid Vohra, a substantive Cardiac Consultant at BHI was held at the Big-DEAL lab on Monday, 22 November 2021. Also present at the workshop was Dr Pawel Capik, the Director of Postgraduate Research, Faculty of Business and Law, the Principal Investigator and representative of the Big-DEAL lab; Dr Muhammad Bilal, the Co-Investigator, and representative of the Faculty of HAS; Dr Faatihah Niyi-Odumosu; and Mr Taofeek Akinosho; the lead AR developer for AI4MICVS.
The surgeons highlighted during the meeting that several unexpected challenges are prone to happen during surgery due to the differences in each patient’s physical and anatomical characteristics. Technologies such as AI and AR can enhance a surgeon’s ability to prevent the conversion of a keyhole heart valve operation to an open-heart surgery, thereby avoiding two sets of scars, and delay in recovery.
While speaking on the proposed AI4MICVS platform, Dr Bilal described it as a tool that facilitates patient education since medical terms used by surgeons to explain the surgical procedure are often difficult for the patient to understand. More importantly, AI4MICVS allows surgeons to access a digital representation of a patient and simulate the entire surgery procedure in advance. The digital representation can either be a 3D model of the patient’s thoracic cavity displayed on a HoloLens or 3D printed models in more severe cases of frail adults and neonates.
As part of the workshop, the Big-DEAL team took the surgeons on a tour of UWE Bristol’s Centre for Print Research (CFPR) where state-of-the-art 3D prints were showcased. The CFPR team further emphasised the possibilities of printing 3D models that replicates the human organs and blood flow using synthetic materials.
Finally, Dr Hunaid, in his concluding remarks, highlighted that they were happy to be a part of the AI4MICVS project which will prospectively facilitate the adoption of MICVS for adults and babies.
Despite the technical challenges that the AI4MICVS project presents, the Big-DEAL team and members from faculty of HAS see this collaboration as a good point for initiating advances in digital health.
This research story was recently featured on our UWE Bristol news releases.