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Monday, 23 October, 2000, 02:09 GMT 03:09 UK
Computer reveals '3D blood flow'
man with computer
The advances could allow detection of arterial disease
UK scientists have developed a computer model that allows them to look at blood flow in the body in 3D.

The scientists believe the technique will give doctors insight into major circulatory problems such as heart attacks and strokes.

The work, carried out at London's Imperial College, could pave the way for early detection of arterial disease.

Blood flow in the body is often examined using ultrasound which gives a two-dimensional display.

But the new computer model combines information obtained through 3D magnetic resonance imaging as well as ultrasound techniques, bringing together information about the rate and pattern of blood flow with information about the geometry of vessels.

Using data from the clinic we should be able to provide reliable predictions about the stresses on the vessel wall at a given point

Dr Yun Xu, Imperial College
That allows the flexibility and elasticity of individual arteries to be examined, without having to resort to invasive procedures such as inserting a catheter into the arteries.

Dr Yun Xu from Imperial College said: "It has been known for a long time that the way blood flows through vessels has a role in the process that causes heart attacks and strokes, known as arteriosclerosis."

"However, the precise mechanisms are not known."

Complex information

Now, the computer model can take account of the complexity of blood flow and the changing diameter of the vessels as it forces its way through.

It brings together information from other computer models allowing assessment of weaknesses and flexibility and how the artery copes with the changing forces it undergoes.

To construct the model the researcher used information from patients attending a clinic at St Mary's Hospital in London.

"Using data from the clinic we should be able to provide reliable predictions about the stresses on the vessel wall at a given point," Dr Xu said.

This could allow doctors to predict which patients may develop arterial disease.

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