Heart condition treatments transform due to 3D printers

Could 3D-printed, embeddable devices revolutionize how we treat cardiac problems?

3D printing is changing healthcare--from making prosthetic devices cheaper to enabling a more efficient way to study bacterial communities . Now doctors are exploring what it can do for our hearts. 

A team of doctors, led by Igor Efimov, PhD, at the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis, have used a 3D printer to create a device which could revolutionize the way we treat and monitor cardiac conditions.

The team have printed a membrane made of elastic silicon material which can be customized to fit the exact shape of a human heart. This material is then embedded with tiny sensors which can be used to monitor a number of important heart health data points -- including temperature and strain. The device is also able to send out small electrical pulses to correct arrythmias.

Efimov commented:

"Each heart is a different shape, and current devices are one-size-fits-all and don’t at all conform to the geometry of a patient’s heart. With this application, we image the patient’s heart through MRI or CT scan, then computationally extract the image to build a 3D model that we can print on a 3D printer."

The membrane can not only be used to monitor chronic conditions, but could also treat heart diseases and artrial fibrillation.

The team's research has been published in Nature Communication.

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Image credit: Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com