Printed Sock Prevents Heart Attacks
Kyle Maxey posted on March 20, 2014 |
A new electronic device custom fit to a patient’s heart could lead to far fewer heart attack d...

heart, implant, 3D printing, medicine, heart attack, electrode, sensorIn America today, heart attacks remain a major problem. In fact, the CDC reports that every year over 700,000 Americans suffer a heart attack. While there are certainly ways to lessen the chance of these devastating events, nothing is guaranteed to work – until now.

In a recent demonstration, researcher Igor Efimov and materials scientist John Rogers debuted a personalized heart monitor that can react to irregularities in a patients heart rhythms and massage the heart if it goes into arrest.

Using a 3D printed model of an individual’s heart, researchers are able to produce a multi-planar sheet of electrodes and sensors that fit snuggly around a patient’s organ and can be affixed and insulated using a medical grade silicon. Using these sensors the new device can monitor electrical signals, temperature, pH and pressure conditions affecting the heart.

While fixing a series of electrodes to the heart might be a good way to improve heart monitoring, it’s not easy. "The tricky thing here is that the membrane needs to be sized in a way that it can create just enough pressure to keep the electrodes in sufficient contact with the surface," said Rogers. "Pressing too hard will cause the heart to respond in a negative way. It needs to fit just right."

By using a 3D printed model created from a high definition image of a rabbit’s heart, researchers have been able to create a device that can be custom fit to a patient’s heart. In the future, 3D models created using CT scans could replace the high-def imagery used today, honing the geometry of the researchers’ device.  What’s more, 3D models could be used to map the heart sock’s electrode mesh, while advanced printers could be used produce the entire device.

Although Rogers’ heart sock will likely need another decade of study before it is available for human patients, the technology is already proving itself in clinical tests. If the next few years go well then, 3D printed heart socks could one day save many people from painful and fatal heart attacks.

Image and Video Courtesy of Nature Communications & KWMU

Recommended For You