Just like me, when you’re faced with a possibly serious surgery, you might feel uncomfortable — maybe even anxious. But unlike most other patients, we experts in modeling think it would be great if surgeons could have access to simulation to see what’s actually happening in our bodies before they cut into us. Through the use of computer-aided surgery, medical teams could even train on “virtual clones” of ourselves, so that on the big day they’d be more prepared and confident in reacting to any situation, planned or not.
A team at the University Hospital of Rennes, France, led by Dr. Antoine Lucas didn’t hesitate to embrace such an opportunity. This team performs endovascular surgery to treat abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA); a well-known solution involves implanting a stent graft. To minimize the risk of post-operative complications, the accuracy of stent graft positioning is crucial. The medical group scans the patient’s cardiovascular system at rest to gain insight about what they will encounter once the procedure starts. But during the surgery, the cardiovascular system gets deformed by the introduction of the wire guide and the stent — so releasing the stent based only on at-rest geometry could be less accurate.
Within the framework of the ANGIOVISION project, which is funded by ANR France, collaborators from research lab Therenva combined their planning surgery software, EndoSize, with ANSYS solutions to predict deformation of the cardiovascular system when endovascular tools are introduced. The simulation results are used during surgery to assist the surgeon, who can gain useful, accurate information on where to release the stent.
Lucas reported to me, “I don’t understand why simulation is used so much in automotive and aeronautic applications and so little in the medical world, where we directly impact a patient’s life. As surgeons, we are spending years to acquire enough know-how and experience to learn how to react quickly when the patient is lying on the operating table; but simulation is giving us the luxury to examine the situation when we still have plenty of time to think through more quietly. This won’t replace a career of experience, but it can make a huge difference in many cases. I trust that simulation will be used increasingly in the clinical world in the near future.”
Well, if I’m suffering from abdominal aortic aneurysm, no doubt I’ll go to Rennes and trust Lucas’ skills, as I know he’d get the best possible insight to take care of me. We all hope that his colleagues around the world will soon be following his steps, so countless lives can be improved and, sometimes, saved while minimizing undesirable impacts to patients.
If you’d like more information about these advances, please see Computer Aided Surgery Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA).