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Open Access Software

Educational application for visualization and analysis of electric field strength in multiple electrode electroporation

Samo Mahnič-Kalamiza, Tadej Kotnik and Damijan Miklavčič*

Author Affiliations

Faculty of Electrical Engineering, University of Ljubljana, Tr&2;aška 25, Ljubljana, SI-1000, Slovenia

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BMC Medical Education 2012, 12:102  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-102

Published: 30 October 2012

Abstract

Background

Electrochemotherapy is a local treatment that utilizes electric pulses in order to achieve local increase in cytotoxicity of some anticancer drugs. The success of this treatment is highly dependent on parameters such as tissue electrical properties, applied voltages and spatial relations in placement of electrodes that are used to establish a cell-permeabilizing electric field in target tissue. Non-thermal irreversible electroporation techniques for ablation of tissue depend similarly on these parameters. In the treatment planning stage, if oversimplified approximations for evaluation of electric field are used, such as U/d (voltage-to-distance ratio), sufficient field strength may not be reached within the entire target (tumor) area, potentially resulting in treatment failure.

Results

In order to provide an aid in education of medical personnel performing electrochemotherapy and non-thermal irreversible electroporation for tissue ablation, assist in visualizing the electric field in needle electrode electroporation and the effects of changes in electrode placement, an application has been developed both as a desktop- and a web-based solution. It enables users to position up to twelve electrodes in a plane of adjustable dimensions representing a two-dimensional slice of tissue. By means of manipulation of electrode placement, i.e. repositioning, and the changes in electrical parameters, the users interact with the system and observe the resulting electrical field strength established by the inserted electrodes in real time. The field strength is calculated and visualized online and instantaneously reflects the desired changes, dramatically improving the user friendliness and educational value, especially compared to approaches utilizing general-purpose numerical modeling software, such as finite element modeling packages.

Conclusion

In this paper we outline the need and offer a solution in medical education in the field of electroporation-based treatments, e.g. primarily electrochemotherapy and non-thermal irreversible tissue ablation. We present the background, the means of implementation and the fully functional application, which is the first of its kind. While the initial feedback from students that have evaluated this application as part of an e-learning course is positive, a formal study is planned to thoroughly evaluate the current version and identify possible future improvements and modifications.

Keywords:
Education on electroporation; Electromagnetic field visualization; Applications in subject areas; Interdisciplinary projects; Interactive learning environments