Open Heart Surgery is a procedure that is, to this day, considered risky and subsequently avoided when at all possible. Likewise, the more common and minimally invasive mitral valve replacement procedure also carries risks. But with the help of 3D printing, combined with other more traditional methods of examination, Doctors at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit are conquering difficult operations that were once prone to postoperative complications.
According to a recent article on Medgadget, “60% of patients over 75 have mitral valve disease, and it’s an even bigger problem than aortic valves.”
“The Center for Structural Heart Disease at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit are currently running an innovative program where clinicians use 3D printing and computer simulations to help install replacement mitral valves without having to resort to open surgery.”
Dr. William O’Neill and his team have developed a process and gathered together the equipment needed to pre-plan transcatheter mitral valve replacements (TMVR).
The team of researchers on O’Neill’s project worked with a company known as Materialise, a 3D printing company who were able to consistently convert CT scans of hearts into computer simulations. Once printed, the physical replica can be used to see which valves to implant and where to position them.
Such technology has meant that there is a greater rate of successful implementations due to the accuracy of the imaging and printing - with the degree of difference between actually patient hearts and printed versions being as little as 1mm.
Though imaging and 3D printing are not uncommon approaches within the health industry of late, tying them together is still a challenge.
Medgadget noted that, “to produce useful models, the company developed software that cleans up a lot of the noise and anatomical fragments, and then clinicians with the help of Materialise’s specialists do some manual computer work to define the final model. These models are then printed right there at the hospital and can be examined and evaluated for different valves. Once that is done, the actual procedure becomes a lot easier and can be performed with greater confidence, leading to much improved clinical outcomes. And the numbers show this.”
“One of the more common complications of minimally invasive mitral valve implantations is left outflow tract obstruction. This happens when the new valve protrudes into the ventricular outflow tract, creating another problem altogether. Sometimes the valve embolizes because it detaches from its implant site and floats away, creating an emergency that can only be dealt with open heart surgery. Since patients receiving transcatheter mitral valves are already high-risk for open heart surgery, this is obviously a critical problem.”
Although there have only been limited procedures undertaken to date, the combination of 3D printing and CT imaging is proving to be a game changer.
If you’d like to read more about mitral anatomy or the challenges involved in mitral valve implantation, click here.