An advanced new coronary artery assessment tool called Apricot has been developed by researchers at the University of Western Australia (UWA) and the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.
Apricot provides cardiologists with rapid information to treat patients with heart disease and prevent fatal heart attacks. It has been named a finalist in the WA Innovator of the Year 2021 Awards, in both the Rio Tinto Emerging and Wesfarmers Wellbeing Award categories.
The tool aims to provide new information to the cardiologist when they are treating a patient during catheterisation theatre, known as the Cath Lab, where procedures such as stenting are carried out.
The new information combines the anatomical data that they can see on the images, with engineering-based information that they cannot see, to give them a better idea of how to treat the patient.
Associate Professor Barry Doyle and Dr Lachlan Kelsey from UWA’s School of Engineering and the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research developed the methods over the past seven years. They collaborated with Professor Carl Schultz, the UWA chair in Cardiology, and an interventional cardiologist at Royal Perth Hospital.
The coronary artery assessment tool originated from a research question around wanting to advance understanding about how the mechanical forces contributed to disease in the artery. This evolved into a new suite of software tools, Doyle said.
“When treating patients, cardiologists often use many different types of images to see the problem,” Doyle said.
“Apricot merges the different images together to create an advanced 3D visualisation of the diseased artery.
“The software then performs engineering simulations, similar to what would be used in oil and gas pipelines, to update the images with this new information.”
Apricot aims to do this in real-time while the patient is being treated in hospital, allowing the cardiologist to make better decisions and improve patient outcomes.
Rroughly one in three Australians who had a heart attack and were treated in hospital (often by a stent placed in their coronary artery), either died or returned to hospital following another heart attack within three years, according to Doyle.
“Internationally, one in five of these patients will die from another heart attack or end up back in hospital with another heart attack within two years,” he said.
“We hope this new information will reduce the grim statistics, leading to better outcomes for the patient and savings for the hospital, as unexpected returns are very costly.”
A company called Navier Medical has been established to commercialise the coronary artery assessment tool.
The WA Innovator of the Year 2021 winners will be announced at the November 3 awards ceremony.