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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Sept. 1, 1978)
frlday, September 1, 1978
Heart scanner .. .
Continued from p. 7
X-rays taken at tne precise same moment of each heart
beat. The computer then reconstructed the cross-section
from the several images taken over the course of several
As a result of this research, computer models were de
vised which allow scientists to 'dew a cross-section of a
heart as it changes shape during a heartbeat or to freeze
. - Ua.
Double Fudgy Nutty
the action as the heart appears at any given moment.
The canine studies were necessary, Pao says, to verify
the accuracy of the techniques being used. "When you
apply it to human beings, you have to be right."
While his original work was valuable in developing com
puter models, the laboratory scanning procedures for dogs
are not transferable to human subjects since the heart
can't be removed for scanning. Attaching electrodes by
surgical methods is also risky, but without such a proce
dure the regularity of the human heartbeat cannot be
assured, particularly when considering diseased or ab
The other alternative may be the 28-X-ray scanner.
Such a machine can cost hundreds of thousands of dol
lars to build, but its advantages outweigh t the costs es
pecially when human lives are in the balance. The cost
may also be offset by eliminating the need for certain
diagnostic surgical procedures.
No surgery required
The fact that the procedure is noninvasive is attractive,
Pao notes. It doesn't require going inside the body to
gather information as in exploratory surgery or use of
There is no need to fear dangerous radiation exposure
during scanning either, he says. Total exposure during a
28-X-ray scan is no higher than that received during a
standard radiography examination, Pao says.
By using the scanner, he points out, doctors will be
able to project an X-ray cross-section of a heart onto a
video terminal where he can "open it up" and rotate it
on-screen to get a complete picture; a better look,
possibly, than he might get by going inside the body for a
The computer technique Pao is using is called finite
element analysis and was developed originally for the
analysis of aerospace structures. He used a 10-week
summer visit in 1975 at the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration's Ames Research Center in Cali
fornia to help verify his heart model.
Pao visited Mayo
The UNL professor's interest in biomedical research
predates his arrival at the university in 1966 when he
worked on life support systems for astronauts as an
employee of an aerospace company in California during
the mid-1960s. That interest was kept alive during later
participation in biomedical programs at the University of
Louisville Medical Center and the National Science Foun
dation Summer Institute.
Pao. spent the summers of 1973 and 1974 as a visiting
scientist at the Mayo Clinic. It was out of discussions
there that the scanner research developed.
Since then, he has made four trips to Rochester each
year and is in almost weekly contact by phone. "But
I'm just a small part of the overall project," he explains.
In addition to the Mayo-based members of the 40-person
team, there are several other outside collaborators like
himself, Pao says.
The recently-approved lung mechanics research is a
offshoot of the heart studies, he says. "It's worthwhile
to conduct the two together because this way we can get
a picture of the entire chest."
"This is just the very beginning," Pao comments.
"We're studying solely the heart muscle." Future
considerations may be the fluid mechanics of the heart's
interaction with the blood, he adds.
But the important first steps, have been taken. Once
scientists are able to see how stresses and strains affect
the heart, they will be able not only to diagnose existing
problems but also predict what might happen, Pao says.
"We're trying to assist the physician in making deci
sions," he says. "The more accurate the diagnostic tool,
the easier that will be."
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