A New Way to Heal Hearts with Non-Invasive Surgery

Interesting Engineering

tedx[Image Source: Edited/Ted Talks/Wikipedia]

Dr. Franz Freudenthal recently implemented a new technique to mend holes in hearts using a non-surgical procedure.

One out of every 100 children is born with some type of heart condition. Major surgery used to be the only solution, according to Freudenthal.

"There's a part of this problem I think I can solve -- the part of this problem I have spent my life working on," Freudenthal said at a Ted Talks.

The Problem

In the womb, a fetus relies on the umbilical cord as a lifeline. The umbilical cord connects the fetus directly to the mother's placenta. The placenta provides an area for the fetus to exchange waste for nutrients and oxygenated blood. The cord contains three main channels: two arteries and one vein. Inside the body, the cord branches off into two sections. One part connects to the hepatic portal vein in the liver and the other two connect directly to the heart through the inferior vena cava.

fetus[Image Source: Lumenlearning]

At birth, the cord must be severed and the hole where the umbilical cord artery connects to the heart must be closed. If it doesn't, the hole remains. Infants which suffer this condition often struggle to breathe. While small holes may heal by themselves, major surgery is often required to mend holes with a larger diameter.

The Solution

However, recent medical advancements now enable doctors to close the hole using non-surgical options. The method uses a device fed through the body via natural body channels. The shape-memory alloy molds to fill the space. The device is deployed through the catheter where it balloons outward into an umbrella shape. It is then pulled tight where a secondary section balloons out on the internal side of the heart wall. The two opposing umbrella structures compress the heart wall, permanently sealing the hole without the need for surgery.

The procedure takes just 30 minutes.

"Once the device is in place, the patient is 100 percent healed," says Freudenthal.

Freudenthal became a doctor after he became inspired by his grandmother who was also a doctor. A few years later, he decided to follow in her footsteps. He became increasingly intrigued and concerned with the alarming rate of heart conditions occurring in young persons. He decided to study new technologies to help those suffering from one of the many common kinds of heart complications.

"That's very rewarding from the medical and human point of view. We are so proud that some of our former patients are part of our team -- a team, thanks to added close interaction with patients that work with us. Together, we have only one idea: the best solutions need to be simple. We lost the fear of creating something new."

The procedure has already been implemented with large success. The technique offers hope for tens of thousands of infants which suffer from heart conditions all around the world. Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest ones, Freudenthal said.

Via Ted Talks


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