Bordeaux University Hospital Uses HeartWorks to Accelerate and Connect Learning Across Specialties

For the last 10 years, Bordeaux University Hospital has been using Intelligent Ultrasound’s (IU) HeartWorks to help progress and accelerate learning. In this blog, we interview Professor Stephane Lafitte who tells us the story behind the need for a new platform and how they have used HeartWorks to connect and train across specialties.

Focused on the treatment and care of patients, research and education, Professor Stephane Lafitte has been Chief of the Echocardiography Department at Bordeaux University Hospital for the last 25 years. Over his tenure, he has been responsible for the echocardiography department and together with colleagues, built a new department focused on structural valve disease.

The need for the structural valve disease department arose in 2010, when working with a team of surgeons at the hospital, mitral valve surgery changed and in response, they identified a need to change their approach to understanding heart structures.  

“There was a gap between theory and practical TEE – particularly around the mitral valve. There was a need to understand mitral valve anatomy from an echocardiography perspective – focusing beyond the plane and echo.”

Professor Stephane Lafitte, Bordeaux University Hospital

At that point in time, mitral valve surgery changed, the Professor and hospital switched gears and the Professor focused his time and efforts on education.

Prior to 2010 the hospital was using a very conventional method for training medical students, using books to teach echocardiographic theory. Professor Lafitte was one of the first in France, possibly Europe, to develop a digital program for echocardiography – at that time on a CD-ROM – but it was only 2D. The future, he quickly identified, was understanding the 3D dynamic structure of the heart.

Soon after, 3D echocardiography arrived in the form of HeartWorks, and the Professor and hospital invested in IU’s platform to help meet their objectives.

The first detailed simulation platform of its kind at the time, HeartWorks allowed Professor Lafitte’s colleagues and students to discover the functional dynamic anatomy of the heart – particularly around the mitral valve – “as they’d never understood it before”. Continuing his focus on education, Professor Lafitte started to employ HeartWorks as part of his teaching programs to transfer knowledge to his colleagues and trainees.

Professor Lafitte commented “HeartWorks provided medical students at Bordeaux University Hospital with a unique way to understand the heart’s anatomy, outside and inside. Prior to HeartWorks students viewed the structure of the heart statically – in books.”

“When moving to HeartWorks they were able to see the heart contracting and moving, a real move in how they considered the heart. Medical image modalities existed but were not as precise as the HeartWorks model. HeartWorks was a new way to imagine, see, understand and teach the global heart dynamic structure.”

Professor Stephane Lafitte, Bordeaux University Hospital

The installation of the HeartWorks platform provided Professor Lafitte with the tools he needed to teach across specialties effectively, but also presented his next challenge – making training in the field of echocardiography more efficient.

“When we saw HeartWorks it instigated a change in the way we delivered learning programs. You can see the anatomy of the heart and echocardiographic plane on one screen, helping people understand the connection between them. However, a few hours into the first course using HeartWorks to teach anesthesiologists, I saw that we had lost them, it was too much information at once.  When you know nothing about and are new to heart anatomy and you try to connect it with echocardiographic views, the brain is overloaded.”

Over the next 5 years, Professor Lafitte and a team of colleagues worked hard to maximize HeartWorks’ capabilities at the hospital and integrate it into a ‘stepped approach’ to learning via an accelerated teaching method for echocardiography.

Professor Lafitte explained “We slowed the process down and implemented a step approach. First, students would learn the very basic theory and views of echocardiography using books or drawings to show the parasternal long axis and short axis views for example. They needed to learn these basics by heart.”

The professor continued “Once they had this information and all the views in mind, we moved to the second step within HeartWorks. Using just the echo part of the platform, not the 3D views, they had to find the view they had in mind using the probe and manikin. We then moved them to patients, where they had the opportunity to obtain and interpret views on different thorax. The 3rd step is about qualitative analysis, where we ask students to perform a basic interpretation of the LV function for example using a database we have at the hospital. When they have the knowledge to obtain and interpret the views – we return to the manikin and HeartWorks and teach them the functional anatomy of the heart and then connect this with the functional views. The final step is to disconnect from the reference views to scan the heart independently of the first view they had in mind. Slicing the heart in 3D (TTE, TEE) to create new views for better analysis and understanding of structures.”

Professor Lafitte concluded “Several methods have been attempted – this ‘step’ approach allows us to accelerate learning, but at the right pace for the student to fully absorb information.”

Over 10 years later and the Professor still witnesses the surprise and shock when fellows attending training first see the heart within HeartWorks. “Seeing the heart inside the body, the thorax, is important for medical students and fellows – but equally as important for colleagues/postgraduates – there is no way to fully understand the heart otherwise” he said.

For more information on HeartWorks, visit

Hi-fidelity ultrasound simulators for Transesophageal and Transthoracic Echocardiography (TTE & TEE).