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4D Cardiology Visualization and Analytics (CAVA) Laboratory

Center for Heart Care

The mission of the Phoenix Children’s Center for Heart Care 4D Cardiology Visualization and Analytics (CAVA) Laboratory is to advance pediatric medicine through:

  • The development of novel tools and methods to guide clinical decision making
  • The quantification of pathological advancement with the goal to understand, predict and then identify clinical milestones

The lab achieves its mission by bringing in engineering, computer science and machine learning concepts to both clinical problems and to clinical research questions in pediatric medicine. The technical specializations of the lab are in clinical signal processing, image processing and anatomical shape analysis. Although the focuses of the lab are in the areas of pediatric cardiology and related areas within radiology, the technical and engineering skills of the lab do not isolate it specifically to these focus areas.

The primary research areas are:

  • Heart Transplant: Developed a virtual fit assessment tool to help improve donor-to-recipient organ-size matching. This work was the body of the Primary Investigator’s PhD dissertation. This work is now pushing how physicians think about donor size matches.
  • Advanced Heart Failure: Developing novel tools to quantify and evaluate heart failure development. The project’s long-term goal is to catch clinical milestones earlier to improve the management of advancing heart failure with current standard-of-care treatment options.
  • Anatomical Shape Analysis: Developing tools to analyze anatomy. The goals of this work are to:
    • compare healthy controls to disease populations in novel ways
    • predict the success of device placement based on patient-specific anatomy
  • Virtual Reality: Developing virtual reality software that is moving engineering tools to user-friendly software for the physician. The merits of this improvement project are to help physicians during both surgical planning and the educating process for patient families to make informed decisions on their child’s (or their own) treatment. This tool will complement our 3D printing program by addressing limitations which make the printing of anatomically accurate 3D prints impossible for a subset of patient cases. This work is in collaboration with the Sonoran Visualization Laboratory under the direction of Chris Bryan, PhD, from Arizona State University’s (ASU) School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering. This project is supported by a 2019 PCH Foundation’s Leadership Circle grant and helps to support an ASU PhD student.

Born from 3D

Our Cardiac 3D Printing Program began in 2012. With support from our Foundation's Leadership Circle and Heart Effect, the printing program has continued to thrive. It is from the successes of that program that the 4D CAVA Lab was developed to bring a stronger emphasis on computer vision and analytical research to the Center for Heart Care. It is these same types of printed computer models that can also be used in the shape analysis work of the 4D CAVA Lab. Members of the 4D CAVA Lab continue to support and operate the printing operations in the Cardiac 3D Print Lab.

Students and Student Support

The lab recognizes the importance of training the next generation of researchers and is committed to providing experiences in a clinical research lab for students at the undergraduate, graduate and medical school levels; however, many times these students lack funding support. These experiences range from supporting the efforts of 3D printing in our Cardiac 3D Print Lab to the creation and carrying out of their own project designs in the 4D CAVA Lab. Students get hands-on mentorship from clinical and research professionals who collaborate with our lab. Unfortunately, out of necessity, these students will hold unrelated jobs and their research and technical skill development can suffer. A goal of the 4D CAVA Lab is to create a funding source to provide modest research stipends for deserving students to assist in keeping them engaged. The lab is comprised of engineering, biology and medical students from ASU and the University of Arizona. By donating here, you can help support students who do not otherwise have grant backing to support:

  • student research time through a student stipend,
  • buying research coordinator time specifically dedicated to helping facilitate paperwork needed to start, monitor and close out documentation needed for these student-led human research projects,
  • helping purchase needed materials not readily available in our lab for their student-developed research and capstone projects.


Our Core Team

  • Jonathan D. Plasencia, PhD, Principal Investigator, ASU SBHSE Adjunct Professor
  • Steven D. Zangwill, MD, Cardiologist
  • Todd Abruzzo, MD, FAHA, Interventional Neuroradiologist
  • Brittany Metzler, Student Learner - Lab Manager, ASU Biomedical Engineering Undergraduate Student
  • Matt Chrest, Student Learner, ASU Biomedical Engineering Masters Student
  • Shannon Grassi, Student Learner, ASU Biomedical Engineering Masters Student
  • Asfia Numani, Student Learner, ASU Biology Undergraduate Student
  • Shambhavi Mishra, Student Learner, ASU Biology Undergraduate Student
  • Gaurav Jategaonkar, Student Learner, ASU Material Science Engineering Undergraduate Student
  • Angie Wirstrom, Student Learner, ASU Biomedical Engineering Undergraduate Student
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