Really understanding any congenital heart disease (CHD) requires detailed knowledge of the underlying anatomy & the physiology that results. I often found that 3D imaging like MRI, CT, and echocardiography were really helpful in understanding diseases for which 2D diagrams simply didn’t seem like enough. That’s where the Heart Defects app comes in.
Heart Defects is a medical app that uses 3D anatomic reconstructions derived from cardiac CT to teach around 10 of the most common congenital heart diseases. Not only would they all be covered in a pediatrics block in medical school, you’re likely to see patients with these conditions during a pediatrics clerkship as well.
The Heart Defects app has a general information section that provides a basic overview of congenital heart disease. There are some useful tidbits in here but a lot of it left me puzzled. For example, diabetes is listed as a cardiovascular teratogen and Marfan’s lists aortic insufficiency rather than aortic root disease as the association.
The framework for CHD used by the Heart Defects app organizes different CHDs by whether they involve a left to right shunt, right to left shunt, or obstructive anomalies in their most complete presentation. Many don’t fit neatly into these boxes & shift over time but really any organizational schematic you choose will have those problems, so this seems like as reasonable a starting point as any other.
Each CHD in the Heart Defects app is organized the same way. In the Explore tab, there is a 3D anatomic model that you can rotate; a paired normal heart reconstruction will simultaneously rotate for comparison. While it’s a great idea, this section needs some work. First, it would be useful to be able to see the normal and abnormal models on the same screen so you can actually compare without scrolling. Being able to zoom in and out would also be useful. Finally, labeling the models with arrows/text would be better than the color coding scheme with a legend that you have to scroll down to see. Also included in this section is a text description of the anatomy associated with the condition.
Under Review, there is more detailed information about the condition including epidemiology, associations, treatment, and prognosis. This section is generally in short bullet points and is pretty high yield.
Finally, the Test section has one question on each condition as well as detailed answer explanations.
The app also has Test your Diagnostic Skills section that basically presents a series of 3D models & asks for the diagnosis. I found this section really tough to use just because of the UI issues I highlighted above with the models in this medical app.
- High yield information on anatomy and CHDs
- Covers a good range of CHDs
- Needs UI improvement with regards to the 3D models to make them more useful
- No references for the information in the app
The Heart Defects app has a lot of potential to be a valuable tool for teaching medical students & residents about CHDs. The crux of its value though are the 3D models and these would need to be more effectively implemented before I’d recommend Heart Defects.
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