Arterial Plumbing: Data visualisation and diagnosing heart disease

October 27, 2011 § 2 Comments

visualising arteries, harvard study

Credit: Michelle Borkin

It’s encouraging to learn of scientists actively researching and highlighting the importance of data visualisation in life-saving areas. Two aspects of data-viz principles have been demonstrated by Professor Hanspeter Pfister and Michelle Borkin, at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, from a study on diagnosing heart disease.

Our goal was to design a visual representation of the data that was as accurate and efficient for patient diagnosis as possible,” says lead author Michelle Borkin, “What we found is that the prettiest, most popular visualization is not always the most effective.

Traditional visualisation builds a 3D model of the arteries: but a relational 2D model proved more helpful. The circumference of each artery and their proportionate lengths are outlines, as well as the branching points. The result is a network diagram.

Typical scientific colour schemes for data are of the rainbow variety. The Harvard researchers showed that using black to red instead improved the quality of diagnoses for heart disease.

With the new visualization, an arterial system that would previously have been reconstructed in 3-D (left) is instead deconstructed and shown with each branch separated from the main vessel. Arteries are then represented as 2-D branches (bottom right) whose dimensions are proportional to the circumference and length of the corresponding artery. Branching points and relationships between branches are also displayed.

Full article on PhysOrg.com here

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