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Mechanical heart pump

Anders Persson

Download this image from Wellcome Collection.

Dual-energy computed tomography (DECT, or dual-energy CT) scan of a patient who received a mechanical heart pump (coloured blue) while waiting for a heart transplant. Virtual 'slices' were taken of the patient's chest using X-rays (with this type of scan, the dose of radiation received by the patient is extremely low). The images were then used to create a 3D digital model that can be rotated, sliced and magnified as required. Different colours and degrees of transparency can also be applied to the various tissues. In this image, the patient's arms are raised up near their head. The heart pump, breastbone (complete with L-shaped metal sutures), collarbone and bones of the ribcage have been made opaque. Other layers of tissue have been made see-through so that the connections between the heart and the pump can be checked. The pump is wired to the left side of the diseased heart and to the aorta (the major artery supplying oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body). The pump's connection to the heart is faultless. This technique is extremely useful for noninvasively investigating and diagnosing medical conditions and for performing virtual autopsies.

Why was this image chosen as the overall winner?

Fergus Walsh, Medical Correspondent for the BBC, explained: "Yet again the judges were delighted by the quality of the images submitted. It was very hard work picking an overall winner, but we were especially impressed by Anders Persson's 3D image of a mechanical heart fitted inside a human chest. The juxtaposition of delicate human anatomy with the robust mechanical plumbing parts was striking, and the image was rendered so vividly in 3D that it appears to jump out at the viewer." 

What is dual-energy computed tomography?

Dual-energy computed tomography (DECT) is a type of CT scan that uses X-rays. DECT has two sources of X-rays (dual-source CT) with different energies, which were used simultaneously to scan the patient in a series of virtual 'slices'. These were then digitally reconstructed using a 3D volume rendering technique to produce a digital model that can be rotated, sliced and zoomed into as required. Within the model different colours and degrees of transparency can be applied to different tissues - including fat, bone, parenchymal organs and contrast-enhanced vessels, as well as air - to increase the visual differentiation between them. DECT provides higher quality images than conventional CT without the need for exposure to additional radiation. In this image, the patient's arms are raised up near their head to avoid them being in the image and to reduce the necessary radiation dose.