- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 12, 2003

Man’s most important muscle pumps 1.3 gallons of blood through his system every minute and 1,900 gallons per day. With this kind of workload, the heart takes a beating over a human’s lifetime. Through research and technological advances, surgeons and scientists have found ways to keep this fist-size workhorse happy.

A great Web site was created three years ago by a popular Midwestern science museum, the Center of Science and Industry (COSI), to explore this organ. The site is still used to help students taking part in the museum’s “surgical suite” educational program. Any curious surfer can freely look at its interactive pages, which balance a wonderful tutorial on the heart with ways to keep it functioning properly.

Open Heart

Site address: www.cosi.org/onlineExhibits/openHeart/heart.html

Creator: Located in Toledo and Columbus, Ohio, the COSI hands-on science centers, with help from the Columbus Medical Association Foundation, developed the site.

Creator quotable: “We created this site to help middle and high school students prepare for our open-heart video conference. During that program, they watch live open-heart surgery and ask the surgeon and operating room team questions as the operation progresses,” says Gail Wheatley, director of electronic education at COSI Columbus.

“The Open Heart Web site allows these students to explore the basics of heart health and bypass surgery so they can develop great questions to ask during the video conference. The site also provides patients facing open-heart surgery a chance to see what will be occurring and understand their own risk factors better.”

Word from the Webwise: A quick animation sequence featuring a beating heart quickly melds into a multimedia page that highlights an interactive approach to learning while introducing the site’s sections: Anatomy, Disease, Hospital, Surgery and Prevention.

Open Heart reserves the middle of its screen for the hands-on action while using actors posing as doctors to hang out at the side to introduce sections and offer navigation tips, clinical information and guidance. An always-present glossary of terms hovers at the bottom.

Sections should be looked at in the order listed above to get the most logical use of the resource.

To begin, a click on Anatomy will open to two activities that have visitors first construct a heart by dragging illustrated puzzle pieces onto a template to eventually get an anterior and posterior view and, next, learn about blood circulation by typing in numbers corresponding to the correct circulation sequence to get rewarded with an animation of the heart doing its job.

The Disease section may be the most intensive, with a look at nine diagnostic tools used to determine heart problems (including a cool rollover effect using an electrocardiogram), eight common heart ailments and an exercise in which visitors help a cardiologist diagnose the heart disorder of three fictional individuals.

Hospital provides not only details on angioplasty, atherectomy and coronary stents plus interviews with medical personnel, but also a 360-degree, rotatable view of an operating room at the Ohio State University Medical Center and a catheterization lab at the Mount Carmel West Medical Center.

Rounding out the whirlwind knowledge trip, the site also contains a virtual demonstration of bypass surgery (Surgery) and a look at the aging process of one man (Prevention) and how the choices he makes will determine the health of his heart and longevity.

Ease of use: Any computer capable of running the current Flash Plug-in in a Web browser should be compatible. Smaller monitors might be a problem, however, as the font size on the pages scales with the screen.

Don’t miss: The virtual bypass surgery found in the Surgery section is quite an adventure. The procedure is totally dissected through on-screen animations that encompass six points of surgical preparation, the selection of the correct vein, the opening of the chest cavity, use of the heart-lung machine and a 15-step walk-through of the bypass that covers details down to the patient wearing a pacemaker until the muscle’s pumping rhythm stabilizes. Parents should be forewarned that students can access real images of the procedures that are a bit graphic.

Family activity: The entire clan will quickly understand that an ounce of prevention can help keep a pound of fat from clogging the cardiovascular system. After seeing the number of ways the heart can go bad and how it has to be fixed, it seems to be a no-brainer that each family member would watch his or her weight, stop eating junk food, get a regular medical checkup and exercise as often as possible.

Cyber-sitter synopsis: Definitely appealing to the middle school and older crowd looking for a career in cardiology, the site does a dynamic job of presenting a focused lesson on modern medicine’s ability to handle many problems associated with the heart.

Overall grade: A+

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it’s accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).

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