Researchers at the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute are developing 3D printed models of heart valves that can save the lives of heart patients.
These valves are developed using the actual specification of the patient’s heart using CT scans. The models are customized and the models not only replicate the size and proportion, they also carry similar physiological traits. This initiative by the Georgia Tech team is focused mainly on the treatment of aortic stenosis, a fatal condition causing the left heart ventricle to constrict, forcing the heart to overwork in order to pump blood. This problem can lead to heart failure if not attended in time.
A procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) which involves using a catheter to replace the patient’s faulty valve with a new one is conducted to save the patient’s life. Matching a prosthetic valve to the exact specifications of the patient’s natural heart valve could be very tricky. And as Chuck Zhang, the Professor at the Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering explains, since male and female bodies are different, matching the valve to a patient’s heart is a challenge for the doctors.
3D printed valves models are extremely efficient. Data from a CT scan of the patient’s own valve is taken and doctors examine the model and pick the correct prosthetic. The 3D printer creates models that mimic the exact function of the natural valve. Conditions like calcium deposits can also be reconstructed in the models, which enable the doctors to select the best valve implant and save the patient’s life.
Zhen Qian, of the Piedmont Heart Institute, said that their printed model can determine the paravalvular leakage and its location. The Georgia Tech team has 3D printed more than twenty heart valve models till date.