SimVascular User Profile: Alison Marsden, PhD

University of California, San Diego’s Alison Marsden uses SimVascular to do patient-specific modeling of blood flow for surgical applications.



Alison Marsden, PhD, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California, San Diego, has used SimVascular since she was a post-doc at Stanford. “These tools let us go directly from medical image data to simulation results,” she says. “SimVascular has capabilities that are not available in commercial packages—things specifically tailored for cardiovascular applications.”


Using SimVascular, Marsden and her colleagues designed a new “Y-graft” modification of the Fontan surgery, which is done to treat children who lack one of the ventricles of the heart. After modeling the geometry of the traditional surgical correction from a specific patient’s surgery, they used SimVascular to test alternative approaches and came up with the Y-graft. “It appears to be a better technique,” she says. She expects it to be put into use in an actual surgery within the next six months.


Marsden’s group also recently linked SimVascular to an optimization algorithm her team created. The tool tests a series of different potential surgical designs in an automated way. “We set constraints and allowable bounds on the geometry by talking to surgeons and then the computer, given those constraints, will decide which designs to try.” Eventually, this tool may become open source and available as part of SimVascular.    

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