The high incidence of cardiovascular diseases makes it imperative to find ways to improve patient safety. The EU-funded MedicalPhant project developed a 3D simulator to replicate the patient’s organ and pathology. This multidisciplinary project was a collaborative effort among the Valida Innovation company, the Polytechnic University of Valencia, the research institute of the hospital La Fe and the La Fe hospital. The innovation behind MedicalPhant The MedicalPhant model utilises information from ultrasound, computed tomography scans and magnetic resonance imaging images. It faithfully recapitulates the physical and mechanical properties of the heart providing a personalised model of external and internal vasculature that allows the simulation of complex clinical situations. The 3D printed cardiac model is then attached to a machine that reproduces the conditions inside the human body, like blood pressure, blood flow, temperature and heart beats. Once all the parameters have been set, doctors can see how the patient cardiac model behaves and determine if the specific approach brings the intended results. As José María García, CEO of the Valida Innovation company explains, “the heart model behaviour is very similar to the patient clinical situation and can be studied and intervened by surgeons multiple times before even setting foot in the operating room.″ The surgeon can even replicate the conditions that are likely to cause problems and predict if the surgery will be a success. Currently, the simulator prototype has been validated by implementing it in real case studies of cardiovascular surgery to obtain diagnostic capacity before intervention. Using the MedicalPhant model, scientists demonstrated that it’s possible to verify the outcome of heart valve surgery by simulating the repositioning of the leaflet and testing the function of the valve under real blood flow and pressure conditions. Similarly, the 3D model has the capacity to predict the development of an abnormal fistula complication after a valve replacement, which prevents patients from improving their quality of life after an operation. The MedicalPhant model allows a better selection of implants to correct the complication and result in proper valve function. One single 3D model MedicalPhant has been a very successful yet challenging project, combining expertise from different fields, ranging from medical imaging and cardiovascular disease studies to material engineering and complex 3D printing. Partners had to reproduce the delicate anatomy of the heart valves, a major difficulty for even the most advanced imaging systems. García reveals that “we had to think outside the box for each individual technology and fuse them all into one single model.″ Undoubtedly, there are numerous advantages to modelling patient cardiac tissue prior to surgery. “Our approach contributes to the preparedness of the surgery team without risking the life of a patient, reducing complications and costs,″ emphasises García. The company is working on the industrial adaptation of the model prototype before proceeding with the commercialisation of their 3D simulator. The plan is to conduct a major clinical trial with some of the leading European institutes for heart research and medical device certification. Paramount to the future success of the MedicalPhant innovative 3D printing technology is to communicate to cardiovascular patients the advantages of a 3D reconstruction of their heart compared to a 2D grayscale image.
MedicalPhant, simulator, cardiac surgery, 3D printing, 3D model, heart valve, clinical trial