DETROIT – Experts in advanced cardiology believe custom-fitting patients with personalized heart valves is a few short years away.
Henry Ford Hospital cardiologist Dee Dee Wang, M.D.; mentor and renowned cardiologist William O’Neill, M.D., and experts at the Henry Ford Innovation Institute are now pioneering the use of 3D modeling and printing to plan transcatheter valve replacements in patients.
“Our hope is that, five to ten years from now, patients will no longer have to settle for a one-size-fits-all type of treatment,” says Dr. Wang. “Merging engineering with medicine, our vision is to aspire to 3D-print customized valves to an individual’s anatomy.”
Dr. Wang discussed “Utilization of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) to 3D Print: The Making of Personalized Valves,” March 16 at the American College of Cardiology’s 64th Annual Scientific Session and Expo in San Diego.
Physicians at Henry Ford Hospital now use proprietary 3D design methods and printing to pre-plan heart valve replacements and many other procedures. They use a combination of imaging software to create exact replicas of the patients’ hearts to anticipate issues, plan transcatheter approaches and familiarize themselves with patients’ internal anatomy – without a single cut. They also use the model to determine which of the four available heart valves sizes currently on the market will best fit each patient.
Custom-designed valves will help prevent leaks and improve the general efficiency of the valve once it is placed, says Dr. Wang.
“With the application of CAD and 3D printing, there will no longer be guesswork in predicting the size and fit of the valve,” she says.
The technology – 3D printing – has been around since the 1980s and is used mostly for industrial manufacturing, research and technology development. Instead of ink to print text or images, 3D printers lay down layer upon layer of plastic or similar materials to build a tangible, physical model. The technology made global news in 2014 when the crew of the International Space Station used transmitted digital plans to print a wrench from a 3D printer onboard.