February 25, 2024
Shape-Shifting Robotic Catheter Could Revolutionize Heart Surgery

Shape-Shifting Robotic Catheter Could Revolutionize Heart Surgery

A team of physicians and engineers at Boston University has developed a groundbreaking robotic catheter that could transform the field of heart surgery. The device, as described in a study published in Science Advances, possesses shape-shifting capabilities that enable it to navigate complex anatomy while maintaining stability, making common heart surgeries safer and less invasive.

Traditionally, a significant number of cardiac procedures in the United States are open-heart surgeries, which offer surgeons a high level of control but require extensive recovery periods and are not suitable for high-risk patients. Less invasive methods, such as threading catheters through the body’s vasculature, are available but have limitations. These catheters, due to their small size, can be easily displaced by beating heart tissue and lack the necessary dexterity to reach target tissue.

To address this challenge, senior author Tommaso Ranzani, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Boston University developed a robotic catheter that adapts its properties depending on the requirements of the procedure. The catheter features a flexible, air pressure-operated tip that can fit inside veins and inflate once inside the heart. Additionally, an expandable ring is incorporated to anchor the catheter in place by exerting force against the vein walls near the heart’s entrance.

In a testing phase using an ex vivo pig heart’s right atrium, the team successfully performed two different cardiac procedures. The first was a pacemaker lead placement, completed by five inexperienced operators who were able to successfully carry out the procedure in a similar timeframe as an expert using a standard catheter. The second procedure involved anchoring a ring around a tricuspid valve, a more complex operation usually done through open-heart surgery. The robotic catheter maintained contact with and applied force to the moving valve throughout the simulation.

Moving forward, the researchers plan to conduct further testing on live subjects, aiming to tackle procedures of higher complexity. This technology has garnered enthusiasm among physicians, who see various applications for its potential use in heart surgeries.

The development of this shape-shifting robotic catheter marks a significant advancement in the field of cardiac surgery. By providing greater maneuverability and stability, it has the potential to make heart surgeries safer, less intrusive, and more accessible to a broader range of patients. As further research and testing continue, this technology could revolutionize the way cardiac procedures are performed, ultimately reducing the need for taxing open-heart surgeries.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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