Physicians at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are taking an innovative approach to improve care for patients receiving aortic valve replacements. They’re working alongside biomedical engineers from Ohio State’s College of Engineering, who have developed a way to model and predict potential complications so they can be avoided.
The most common reason the aortic valve needs to be replaced is aortic stenosis, or narrowing of the valve opening. Over decades, the valve leaflets can become stiff from calcification, making it harder to pump blood from the left ventricle into the aorta. There are two options to replace the diseased valve – open heart surgery through a traditional opening of the chest, or a less invasive transcatheter method that deploys a tissue (bioprosthetic) valve through a blood vessel in the leg.
To help decide which approach and which valve is right for each patient, physicians and biomedical engineers at Ohio State do something unique: They create personalized 3D models of the aortic valve and neighboring structures and simulate how the new valve will function. This group meets weekly to decide together what will be best for the patient.
The team, which includes graduate students from biomedical and mechanical engineering, precisely reconstruct a patient’s aorta and 3D print it from the patient’s CT scan using various flexible materials that mimic the real aorta. They load the model into a heart simulator which pumps transparent, simulated blood through the system.