MQ Health - Macquarie University

Advanced simulations in cardiovascular care

A rapidly growing area of research within MQ Health is using computational simulation techniques, particularly computational fluid dynamics, to understand otherwise inaccessible or difficult-to-study aspects of cardiovascular disease. Such simulations allow detailed computation of cardiovascular haemodynamics, which give new insights into the functions of the cardiovascular system.

To use this approach, MQ Health researchers create a three-dimensional computer model of a patient’s arteries from detailed medical imaging data. Applying computational fluid dynamics to this model, including allowance for the pulsatile expansion of the arteries, then allows simulations of the patient’s blood flow. This exciting area of study enables MQ Health researchers to determine how changes in shear stress within the vascular system (essentially, how the blood moves along the artery walls) due to disease or injury in turn cause, for example, atherosclerotic plaque build-up in the arteries.

Perhaps even more exciting is the fact that such simulations also are starting to provide the means to do virtual trials of ‘personalised’ treatments for patients with cardiovascular disease and conditions. One example of work currently underway in this space is predicting the best type of surgical treatment for brain aneurysms. Another example is using the simulations to identify specific patients at risk of plaque build-up, allowing earlier intervention and reducing the risk of future heart attacks.