Wellcome / EPSRC Centre for Interventional and Surgical Sciences


Virtual Reality, Patient-Specific Simulations and Experiments to Tackle Vascular Malformations: A Proof of Concept

In lay terms, vascular malformations (VMs) are abnormal connections of arteries and veins, meeting directly. Currently, common interventional treatment options available for patients with VMs include embolotherapy (occlusion of the VM vessels) and surgical debulking. Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict the outcome, including symptom relief and recurrence rate following these procedures. 

Furthermore, these procedures are often associated with significant and sometimes life changing risks including end organ ischaemia and infarction, bleeding, nerve injury and thromboembolism. Therefore, at present there is no guideline or consensus to help clinicians to decide on who should receive interventional treatment.

This project will develop a novel proof-of-concept to demonstrate how a set of scientific principles and technical tools can be used to help clinicians better plan and treat VMs.

The use of VR, patient-specific simulations and in-vitro emulators (using a unique patient-specific physical testing facility for bloodflow analyses developed by the applicants) is a combined approach that has never been used before, not only for the case of VMs but more broadly.  

We propose to use a sophisticated set of tools and models developed in-house to explore the use of this novel technological platform in a clinical setting on an area that is underdeveloped (clinically) in vascular surgery.  Albeit vascular malformations in the brain are a well-defined and challenging clinical area, the same cannot be said for vascular malformations anywhere else in the body.  First of all, it does not figure prominently in the clinical vascular training curriculum. Second, complications arise from heterogeneity in presentation and patient population as well as difficulties in deciding the best patient-specific treatment due to extremely abnormal vasculature and difficulties in assessing blood flow patterns due to limitations in clinical imaging as part of the clinical protocol. 


Dr Vanessa Diaz