Realistic simulators help pilots learn how to fly. How about a simulator to help physicians learn what heart failure feels like? We’ll find out more, today, on Engineering Works!
Congestive heart failure is one of the most common illnesses we face as we get older. It’s the number one reason people over 65 are admitted to the hospital. The symptoms are pretty scary. Walking even short distances makes you tired. It’s hard to breathe and you have trouble catching your breath. After a while, just getting out of bed takes everything you’ve got.
Engineers and computer programmers are using virtual reality to help physicians understand what congestive heart failure feels like.
The computer-controlled simulator is pretty neat — you sit facing a big video screen; feet go on a set of pedals in front, and an inflatable band goes around the chest.
The simulation begins with a congestive heart failure patient on the screen taking a walk in the park. The physicians take a virtual walk with the guy on the screen, pedaling in time to the on-screen patient’s walk. As the disease develops, it gets harder to pedal, just as in real life walking gets more tiring. As it gets even worse, the chest band inflates and it’s hard to breathe. Special headphones block outside sound and play the sound of a heartbeat. Physicians who’ve used the simulator say it’s very real.
Our heart is feeling fine. But it’s still time to wrap it up. See you next time.
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