Sep 29, 2017 | By Tess

A joint team from the Piedmont Heart Institute and the Georgia Institute of Technology has created patient-specific 3D printed heart valve models to improve pre-surgical planning processes for transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) surgery.

The study surrounding the 3D printed heart valve models was recently published in the journal JACC Cardiovascular Imaging under the title “Quantitative Prediction of Paravalvular Leak in Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement Based on Tissue-Mimicking 3D Printing.”

When a person is diagnosed with heart valve disease, and especially if they are at high risk for open-heart surgery complications, they are made to undergo a transcatheter aortic valve replacement, which involves implanting a prosthetic valve into the heart to replace the damaged one.

With TAVR, however, there is still the risk that the prosthetic valve won’t be a perfect fit, which can lead to paravalvular leakage (PVL), which involves blood flowing backwards around the ill-fitting prosthetic valve. According to the researchers, “PVL is an extremely important indicator of how well the patient will do short- and long-term with their new valve.”

This means that the ability to predict PVL could allow medical professionals to better choose a prosthetic valve for the particular patient and ultimately improve their recovery after TAVR.

To achieve this, the Piedmont Heart Institute and the Georgia Institute of Technology team have developed an “in vitro TAVR pre-procedural planning platform to quantitatively predict the occurrence, severity, and location of post-TAVR PVL.”

A key part of this platform is the realistic 3D printed patient-specific heart valve model which can help professionals choose the right prosthetic for the best TAVR results.

The prosthetic heart valves were made using Stratasys’ multi-material PolyJet 3D printing technology, which enabled the research team to use a range of different materials to best mimic the various textures and hardnesses of the human heart and its aortic tissue.

As the team explains, it used multi-material 3D printing to “embed metamaterial structures” into the heart valve model, which were designed using a proprietary software. More specifically, the heart valve prosthetic integrates a number of features such as directional wavy fibers which mimic the elastic fibers of the human arteries’ extracellular matrix.

Importantly, metamaterial design and multi-material 3D printing allowed the researchers to closely mimic the mechanical behavior of natural heart valves, including the “strain-stiffening” behavior in soft tissues caused by elastin and collagen proteins.

To test the 3D printed heart valve models with the prosthetic valves, the researchers embedded sensors into eighteen aortic models. These were used to measure and predict the “occurrence, severity, and location of any degree of post-TAVR PVL.”

According to the study, the test was a success, as the researchers found they could accurately predict the risk and level of PVL using the 3D printed heart valve models with the prosthetic valves.

The team believes that its novel process for testing prosthetic valves could help improve TAVR surgeries and reduce the risk of leakages. Once the process is further refined, it has the potential to be implemented in hospitals, helping doctors treat patients with greater accuracy

Additionally, as 3D printing technologies and materials continue to advance and evolve, the team says that many existing hurdles for the production of 3D printed medical models and devices will be surmounted, enabling cardiovascular 3D printing to become “an essential everyday clinical tool to improve patient care in interventional cardiology.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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