Aug 7, 2018 | By Thomas

A team of Stanford researchers is investigating new ways to survey electricity in the heart, and are developing 3D printed cardiac surgical devices that could one day help patients who suffer from a common heart ailment, such as atrial fibrillation.

Image credit: Kevin Cyr

“I’m using 3D-printed tools to design cardiac-mapping catheters, devices used by surgeons to map the electrical activity of the heart and find disturbances,” explained Kevin Cyr, a second-year student who is on the research team.

Cardiac catheter devices use electrodes that contact the surface of the heart to measure electrical activity. Cyr says that finding and understanding rhythm disturbances in patients has been challenging because the existing medical devices are often limited to one size.

The research began a few years ago under the direction of Anson Lee, Assistant Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Stanford University Medical Center. Their investigation is focused on atrial fibrillation, or AFib, a heart disorder characterized by irregular and often rapid heartbeats. It is the most common rhythm disorder, which affects more than 6 million Americans every year. This condition disrupt the flow of blood from the heart to the rest of the body, which can lead to blood clots, stroke and heart failure.

Therefore, the researchers uses 3D printing to creat cardiac-mapping catheters that are customized to each patient, conforming to the unique contours and divots of the individual’s heart.

To do this, patients undergo an MRI or CT scan that records an image file of their heart, which is then fed into a 3D printer. Cyr says that using the scan, “we can replicate that natural geometry and anatomy specific to that patient” and apply it to the device.

A heat map of the electrical activity of a heart projected onto a computer-simulated model of the right atrium. Image credit: Kevin Cyr

The 3D printed cardiac-mapping catheter device is a small, thin, flexible silicone membrane with tiny holes in a grid-like formation, each holding a tiny electrode. When placed on the surface of the heart’s atrium, the device surveys the electrical activity over that specific region of the heart.

Using a soccer ball, Cyr demonstrates how the device conforms to the surface of a heart. Image credit: Kevin Cyr

The data is then transmitted to a computer, where it generates a recording that shows the electrical activity. The recordings produce a heatmap of the electrical activity that physicians use to identify the regions of the heart that need treatment.

“We can map in perfect detail this rectangular grid of information and not have to worry about missing signals, poor contact or things like that, which otherwise might throw out errors,” said Cyr.

Cyr demonstrates how a surgeon uses the customized cardiac-mapping device in the operating room. Image credit: Kevin Cyr

Although the devices are currently used on the exterior layer of the heart, the researchers are investigating whether their 3D-printed device could also be used to map the interior surface of the heart. If so, they believe it could provide much greater accuracy in measuring the rhythmic disturbance there.

Cyr says the researchers will likely take another year or two to refine their technology, which has not yet been tested on humans.



Posted in 3D Printing Application

Source: Stanford


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