Interventional cardiologists dealing with atrial fibrillation, the most common arrhythmia, tend to seek out and ablate the tissue generating aberrant electrical signals. This is done with mapping catheters, the shape of which is designed to maximize contact with the heart to best gather the heart’s intrinsic electrical signals.
Each patient is different, so researchers at Stanford are working on developing customized 3D printed shapes that can be placed against a patient’s heart and map its electric activity. In their current approach the investigators have developed a way of making these for the exterior of the heart, but one day the same technology could lead to customized mapping catheter tips printed ahead of time for each patient.
They’re using CT and MRI scans as the guides to 3D print the silicone membranes into which the electrical leads are placed through an array of holes. “We can map in perfect detail this rectangular grid of information and not have to worry about missing signals, poor contact or things like that, which otherwise might throw out errors,” said Kevin Cyr, a researcher involved in the project, in a published statement.
Next steps will involve miniaturizing a lot of the components and finding a way to work inside the heart as well, which is much easier to access through modern catheter-based techniques.