Virtual reality cardiac surgical planning software (CorFix) for designing patient-specific vascular grafts: Development and pilot usability study


Background:Patients with single ventricle heart defects receive 3 stages of operations culminating in the Fontan procedure. During the Fontan procedure, a vascular graft is sutured between the inferior vena cava and pulmonary artery to divert deoxygenated blood flow to the lungs via passive flow. Customizing the graft configuration can maximize the long-term benefits. However, planning patient-specific procedures has several challenges, including the ability for physicians to customize grafts and evaluate their hemodynamic performance.

Objective:The aim of this study was to develop a virtual reality (VR) Fontan graft modeling and evaluation software for physicians. A user study was performed to achieve 2 additional goals: (1) to evaluate the software when used by medical doctors and engineers, and (2) to explore the impact of viewing hemodynamic simulation results in numerical and graphical formats.

Methods:A total of 5 medical professionals including 4 physicians (1 fourth-year resident, 1 third-year cardiac fellow, 1 pediatric intensivist, and 1 pediatric cardiac surgeon) and 1 biomedical engineer voluntarily participated in the study. The study was pre-scripted to minimize the variability of the interactions between the experimenter and the participants. All participants were trained to use the VR gear and our software, CorFix. Each participant designed 1 bifurcated and 1 tube-shaped Fontan graft for a single patient. A hemodynamic performance evaluation was then completed, allowing the participants to further modify their tube-shaped design. The design time and hemodynamic performance for each graft design were recorded. At the end of the study, all participants were provided surveys to evaluate the usability and learnability of the software and rate the intensity of VR sickness.

Results:The average times for creating 1 bifurcated and 1 tube-shaped graft after a single 10-minute training session were 13.40 and 5.49 minutes, respectively, with 3 out 5 bifurcated and 1 out of 5 tube-shaped graft designs being in the benchmark range of hepatic flow distribution. Reviewing hemodynamic performance results and modifying the tube-shaped design took an average time of 2.92 minutes. Participants who modified their tube-shaped graft designs were able to improve the nonphysiologic wall shear stress (WSS) percentage by 7.02%. All tube-shaped graft designs improved the WSS percentage compared to the native surgical case of the patient. None of the designs met the benchmark indexed power loss.

Conclusions:VR graft design software can quickly be taught to physicians with no engineering background or VR experience. Improving the CorFix system could improve performance of the users in customizing and optimizing grafts for patients. With graphical visualization, physicians were able to improve WSS percentage of a tube-shaped graft, lowering the chance of thrombosis. Bifurcated graft designs showed potential strength in better flow split to the lungs, reducing the risk for pulmonary arteriovenous malformations.



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