Sep.12, 2013

Heart failure is a serious condition caused by the heart failing to pump enough blood around the body at the right pressure. Heart failure cannot be cured, for serious heart failure, the best form of treatment is a heart transplant, but the demand by far outweighs the supply as around 160,000 people require one in Europe each year, but only 600 donor hearts are available.

Another option is to replace the function of a failing heart with a ventricular assist device (VAD), a mechanical pump that is implanted into the body and used to support heart function and blood flow. The device takes blood from a lower chamber of the heart and helps pump it to the body and vital organs, just as a healthy heart would.

A VAD has its power source located outside of the body that means the patient is attached to large external machines and he is always bed-bound in hospital. Now a new custom-designed, 3D printed battery-operated pump for implanting into the body to support a failing heart is being developed to let people get back to their normal life.

Developed by Dr Philip Breedon and other researchers at Nottingham Trent University and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust in UK, the "smart aortic pump" is coated in a smart material which expands when a voltage is applied to it would surround an inner woven tube to act as a pump. It would create a counter blood-flow by pumping out of phase with the diseased heart. When the heart fills with blood, the woven tube would contract to increase pressure in the heart. When the heart then pumps oxygenated blood around the body, the tube would expand to release the pressure and increase the blood flow.

An artist's impression of the smart aortic pump being
developed by Nottingham Trent University and Nottingham University Hospitals

Powered by an implanted battery

The pump would be powered by an implanted battery and would be entirely self-contained, without the need for the patient to be hospital bedbound or connected to large machinery via catheters and transdermal lines.

"This device could really be ground-breaking and more effective than any other therapy currently being used around the world. Chronic heart failure is a major health challenge and up to 40% of sufferers die within the first year." said Dr Breedon.

"In addition the smart aortic graft has the potential to not only extend a patient's life, but also to provide them with mobility, comfort and a reduced need for carers." Breedon added.

The team is currently working on the rechargeable batteries so no operation is needed for replacing battery from time to time.

Using 3D printing techniques, the research team aims for the smart pump to be tailor-made to each patient by using MRI scan data.

Associate Professor David Richens, consultant cardiac surgeon at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said, "The smart aortic graft is a unique, cutting-edge solution to a global health problem and promises to be cheaper and better than current devices. The cost of heart failure in the UK alone is £625 million a year and, according to the World Heart Failure Society, incidences of heart failure are steadily rising around the globe.

Research projects relating to the device will go on show for Nottingham Trent University's Art and Design Postgraduate Expo 2013 on 23 Sept to 4 Oct 2013.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Jeff wrote at 9/12/2013 6:41:49 PM:

"around 160,000 people require one in Europe each year, but only 600 donor hearts are available" Not to take away from the amazing invention of this pump, but are these figures correct?!? The seem way off to me when compared to the US. Per an article in 2011 ( ): 3,158 people in the US on the transplant waiting list for a heart (as of 2011). 2,332 heart transplants performed in the US in 2011.

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