Gaming technology used to help diagnose heart rhythm disease

Doctors at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute (VCCRI) are using computer gaming technology to help diagnose patients suffering from a heart rhythm disease.

Using the same technology that powers video games, researchers have built a virtual heart and simulate hundreds of thousands of heartbeats. Scientists then screened them searching for abnormalities.

VCCRI computational cardiologist and senior author of the study, Dr Adam Hill, said the findings brought them a step closer to understanding rhythm disturbances in the heart. This discovery could also open a path to better diagnosis and treatment with scientists looking at developing automatic computerised tools for diagnosing heart rhythm disorders.

"We were able to identify why some patients have abnormal ECG signals and how a person's genetic background can affect the severity of their disease," Dr Hill said. "We hope this will help doctors read ECGs more accurately, which will mean faster, more accurate diagnosis. By understanding why the same disease affects people differently, the right treatment can be given to the right patients."

The simulation took 10 days using the CSIRO's multimillion dollar Bragg supercomputer. If you were to use a standard desktop PC by comparison, it would take 21 years to get the same job done.

"In the past we were limited because we didn't have enough computational grunt to do an effective job," he said.

The heart disease kills 12 per cent of Australians by stopping their heart from pumping blood effectively, causing sudden death.

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Julia Talevski

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