Echocardiography-based imaging techniques for guidance of intracardiac procedures in horses

PhD research: Ingrid Vernemmen (joint research with the Department of Large Animal Internal Medicine)

Selective breeding for athletic performance has made the horse one of the greatest mammalian athletes. However, horses are susceptible to cardiac arrhythmias, which may carry a risk for horse and rider. The overall aim of the research project is to develop equine-adapted minimally-invasive intracardiac procedures, guided by echocardiographic techniques, in order to diagnose and treat cardiac diseases more efficiently in horses.

These procedures can include occluder implantation for structural heart diseases and mapping and ablation for arrhythmias. The aim is subdivided in four objectives achieved in six work packages.

The first objective is to obtain more detailed anatomical and histological information of the equine heart, with special attention to important anatomical landmarks and electrophysiological structures. This information is crucial to develop echocardiography-guided intracardiac procedures and has insufficiently been studied in horses1.

The second objective is to develop accurate, echocardiography-compatible 3D phantoms of the equine heart and a virtual reality (VR) echocardiography simulator. The third objective is to develop equine-adapted intracardiac procedures and to generate standard views using different echocardiographic techniques for adequate guidance. The phantoms will be utilized to develop and train these procedures which will subsequently be applied in horses.

The last objective is to create new tools for training and educational purposes. The VR echocardiography simulator and 3D heart phantoms will prove valuable in the training of basic and advanced echocardiography and for specialist training in intracardiac procedures.

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