Mobile Health Topic of the Week

Cardio Ex: Unblocking arteries shouldn’t be this fun

Brought to you by the Fantastrial team.

Learning how to perform PCI (Percutaneous Coronary Intervention) used to be a real challenge for cardiologists in training. Level Ex has turned this complex procedure into a game – and it’s really awesome!

A video game for cardiologists

Released in April 2019, Cardio Ex is the latest game by the Chicago-based company with a huge focus on physicians. The app offers “cases” of different coronary ailments, such as artery stenosis. The player has to use standard medical tools, inserting guide wires and placing stents. Being quick means higher scores, but a perfect result is a non-negotiable objective.

More than just a game?

As the levels go on, the stylized depiction of coronary arteries is replaced by more realistic grayscale imaging, just like with real fluoroscopy. The tools increasingly multiply, as well as the dangers that lurk if they’re used incorrectly. Treating the patient without complications gets real hard, real quick.

This game actually reward gamer/cardiologists with official Continuous Medical Education points, which goes to show that it is a real instructive experience. We can definitely see why – every bit of it is tormentingly difficult.

What makes this game truly unique is that this difficulty curve isn’t artificial – real-life skills and experience translate in higher in-game scores. Knowing what type of stent to implant for each lesion and what diameter balloon to use in each coronary artery (there’s a lot of them) is crucial knowledge for cardiologists, and this app really helps hammer them home. At no point did Cardio Ex feel like a puzzle game – it was a medical experience through and through. A word of warning though – playing without at least a modicum of reading will get you nowhere.

Although the app is unbelievably well made, we have one minor point of criticism. There should be a tutorial about the anatomy of the coronary arteries, as well as the standard views cardiologists use to image the coronaries. This addition would make Cardio Ex a complete learning tool for physicians at all stages of their career.

The future for PCI training

Although excellent in both content and presentation, we feel as if smartphone controls really keep Cardio Ex back. Combine it with VR and haptic feedback and we could be well on our way for a revolution in PCI training.

We’re not the only ones that put a lot of faith in Level Ex; Philips recently signed on as a sponsor of the game, with an aim of using it as a training tool for their intravascular ultrasound catheters. These are expected to be added to the game organically, just like all other tools players have at their arsenal.

NASA also trusts Level Ex; they’ll be cooperating to create medical training games for quite literally otherwordly scenarios – emergencies in Mars!

Cardio Ex is available on Google Play and the Apple Store. If Google Play states your device isn’t supported, get the apk here. For more info visit:

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