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22nd August 2021 Latest News Heart Disease

World’s smallest 3D-printed catheter to identify heart attack patients

Jiawen Li heart

New tech to find heart blockages in narrow arteries

The world’s smallest 3D-printed imaging catheter is being developed in Adelaide to identify people at high risk of a heart attack before they experience any life-threatening symptoms.

Dr Jiawen Li from the University of Adelaide has teamed up with RAH cardiologists Associate Professor Peter Psaltis and Dr Johan Verjans, vascular surgeon Prof Robert Fitridge and engineers to create the micro-catheter using innovative 3D printing technology to enable the high-quality imaging of narrow arteries.

Further development of the equipment can now get underway thanks to a grant from The Hospital Research Foundation Group, in order to meet the benchmarks needed to incorporate the device into standard clinical care and help the 20 million heart disease patients worldwide which present to emergency departments each year.

“This device holds great promise for improving health outcomes and helping cardiologists determine the most efficient treatment plans for those at risk of coronary artery disease,” said Dr Li, who is experienced inventor and engineer in intravascular imaging.

“The catheter has been developed to detect cholesterol crystals which accumulate in the fatty plaques that form in heart arteries, making them more inflamed and likely to cause blockages that lead to heart attacks.

“This funding from The Hospital Research Foundation will help us deliver critical milestones to take the technology from ‘bench to bedside’ while quantifying the diagnostic accuracy of the device.”

A/Prof Psaltis, who is Head of the Acute and Interventional Coronary Services in the RAH’s Department of Cardiology and also leads SAHMRI’s Heart and Vascular Program, said there was a huge need to improve diagnostic tools to provide safe and high-quality imaging of narrow arteries.

“The accurate diagnosis of high-risk coronary plaques before they cause life-threatening heart attacks has been a challenge for cardiologists, as our current diagnostic tools still have limitations.

“If proven to be successful, cardiologists will be able to incorporate the micro-catheter into standard procedures to help optimise treatment plans and improve quality of life for our patients.”

The grant acts as valuable seed funding for the research team to progress to the next step of clinical trials, with the ultimate aim to commercialise the device.

Helping people like Lyn O’Brien

Lyn O’Brien, 72, knows all too well the challenges of diagnosing blockages in the arteries, having had an 11-year journey of trying to manage her heart problems.

She first started feeling symptoms of breathlessness in 2010, and spurred by the thought of her grandmother’s premature death due to heart complications, Lyn knew she had to get tested.

“They found a blockage through an angiogram and put a stent in,” Lyn said.

“I would then start experiencing pain again and they would discover more blockages. I’ve had six stents over the years, I also had a triple bypass two years ago and I’m on blood pressure medication.

“We don’t know whether there’s anything in the really narrow arteries, and you can’t stent them.

“I’m a huge supporter of research and finding new ways to treat or manage the things I’m experiencing.”