ASU engineers help make advances in virtual artificial heart implantation


April 22, 2014

Some firsts in the history of artificial heart implantation are being achieved by an Arizona State University research group and medical professionals at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

They have performed what they believe is the first virtual implantation of a pioneering artificial heart, and an implantation of that artificial heart in an undersized adolescent patient. virtual artificial heart Download Full Image

The ASU team is led by David Frakes, an assistant professor in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering and the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, two of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Frakes has been working with technology developed by the Tucson-based company SynCardia Systems Inc., which has developed the Total Artificial Heart for adult patients with end-stage biventricular heart failure who are waiting for a permanent heart transplant.

Frakes is using advanced software developed by the Belgium-based company Materialise to generate 3-D reconstructions of cardiovascular, respiratory and skeletal structures that provide a virtual screening of pediatric patients that helps ensure a proper fit of the artificial heart in the patients.

Through that technique, Frakes aided a Phoenix Children’s Hospital team to map procedures for the first-ever virtual implantation of the Total Artificial Heart. The actual device was implanted into a 14-year-old boy, one of the smallest pediatric patients to date to receive a Total Artificial Heart as a bridge until actual heart transplantation can be performed.

He says that initially, the Total Artificial Heart was implanted into the teen, but complications arose. Images were obtained at the hospital, and an accurate 3-D model was made by engineers at ASU. The 3-D data set helped reveal the reason for the complication, allowing the team to create virtual implantations for small patients who will need the Total Artificial Heart in the future.

A virtual implantation is used to assess the fitness of pediatric patients for an actual implantation of the Total Artificial Heart, particularly those whose body stature could complicate implantation, such as pediatric patients or patients with skeletal abnormalities.

“This cutting-edge technology helps medical interventionists and surgeons plan complex procedures,” explained physician Stephen Pophal, chief of cardiology at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. “With the help of the bioengineers at ASU, we can see if devices designed for adults can fit in children. This is especially important as a newer and smaller version of the TAH is awaiting Food and Drug Administration approval and promises to benefit many children with severe heart disease.”

Frakes’ team performed the virtual implantation of the heart in the patient using Materialise’s Mimics Innovation Suite’s diagnostic technology to create a 3-D reconstruction of the adolescent’s chest cavity from a computerized tomography (CT) scan, and then used a laser scan of the Total Artificial Heart to virtually place the heart into the chest cavity.

After the implantation, a clinical review and a series of measurements – called a virtual fit analysis – determined whether the Total Artificial Heart could properly fit into the boy’s chest cavity. Phoenix Children’s Hospital has adopted this procedure for use with all future Total Artificial Heart candidates.

The artificial heart supported the boy for 11 days before he underwent a heart transplant.

“The Total Artificial Heart literally helps pump blood through a patient’s body because their own heart can’t,” says Frakes, explaining that the Total Artificial Heart isn’t a long-term solution, but it keeps patients stable until a heart for transplant is available.

“It can also increase quality of life during the waiting time,” says Justin Ryan, a doctoral student on Frakes’ research team. In many cases, patients are able to freely move around during the wait time with the use of a transportable external driver component connected to a small mobile battery pack.

The virtual implantation technology isn’t only a significant achievement for care of pediatric patients, Frakes says.

“Virtual implantations can help bridge the gap between heart failure and transplant in congenital patients of all ages,” he says. “They can help optimize a proper fit during pre-operative planning so that complications are minimized by orienting the device in the chest cavity correctly.”

Frakes says his team and partners at Phoenix Children’s Hospital plan to continue the use of virtual implants pre-operatively to identify suitable candidates for the Total Artificial Heart and other cardiac-support devices.

“Many patients may be labeled too small for the device, based on standard criteria, when their body may actually accept it,” he says. Virtual implants and fit analyses will help to show compatibility on a case-by-case basis.

SynCardia has a smaller Total Artificial Heart in development that is designed for patients of smaller stature. But with the current model, implantation into such patients could be risky without the pre-operative virtual implant.

Frakes documented Phoenix Children Hospital’s experience using the Syncardia Total Artificial Heart in a recent edition of the medical journal Perfusion. See an abstract of the research paper at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23868320.

Frakes’ team has since performed four other pre-operative planning scenarios with virtual implantations performed by Ryan.

The team has also developed a series of 3-D models of hearts with congenital defects, designed for use in helping physicians plan surgical strategies based on the individual conditions of patients. The venture is called Heart in Your Hand.

The Materialise company recently licensed the entire Heart in Your Hand library of congenital heart defect models and is displaying them on its HeartPrint website.

Heart in Your Hand is also working with St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Phoenix to develop more 3-D congenital heart defect models for educational purposes.

Materialise’s HeartPrint catalogues 3-D models of all types for use in education and clinical trials. “Materialise is the world’s largest 3-D printing service, meaning that Heart in Your Hand models will now be distributed all over the world,” Frakes says.

Says Ryan, “3-D heart models and performance of virtual heart implantations are no longer the inventions of science fiction. They are happening and they are impacting medicine, medical education and quality of life right now.”

Written by Rosie Gochnour and Joe Kullman

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

480-965-8122

Robot scouts rooms people can't enter


April 22, 2014

Firefighters, police officers and military personnel are often required to enter rooms with little information about what dangers might lie behind the door. A group of engineering students at Arizona State University is working on a project that would help alleviate that uncertainty.

“We’re creating a room-mapping system that can be used to map rooms in three-dimensional space,” says Travis Marshall, a student in the College of Technology and Innovation. With guidance from two faculty mentors, Marshall and four other ASU students are working with Sandia National Laboratories to come up with a way to scan a room and produce a 3-D rendering of what’s inside. group photo of five ASU students in front of building Download Full Image

The product they’re building consists of a laser sensor attached to a motor that sweeps all the way around a room, taking 700-800 individual scans, each one with about 680 unique data points. This information is transmitted to a computer program that creates a picture of the room and all its contents. Whoever is controlling the sensor remotely can see and analyze the data in real-time, as it’s being collected.

“The ultimate goal is for this to be very much separated from the user,” Marshall says. “It could be useful for surveillance, or pretty much anywhere a person couldn’t go, or wouldn’t want to go.”

The technology offers incredible potential. A firefighter might be able to avoid entering a room engulfed in flames by mapping it beforehand to determine if there is a need to go inside. A soldier could scan a building and identify potential threats so that he or she is not blindsided.

“Also, if there has been some sort of emergency in a building where rescue workers can’t go inside for fear of it collapsing, this would be a system that could go in and survey damage, possibly survey invisible physical damage to the building’s infrastructure, without people having to go in and risk their lives to do it,” Marshall says.

The students are building the system for Sandia National Laboratories, a U.S. Department of Energy research facility that focuses on security issues. While Sandia has challenged the team to create the most accurate sensor possible, they are also interested in learning about its limitations. For example, the current prototype can’t scan reflective surfaces or see around objects in the room. But these challenges provide helpful insight and are part of the learning process for both parties.

“After we get a blank room mapped, they want us to progressively be able to map more and more complex rooms,” Marshall says. He and his teammates – Matt Bodington, Preston Yeschick, Jeffrey Rojo and Steven Sanchez – are all engineering students who began working together through ASU’s iProjects program. The program matches student groups with industry partners that need help solving real-world challenges.

Each team also benefits from the help of faculty mentors. Angela Sodemann and Tom Sugar are both engineering professors at CTI with experience working on technology similar to what Marshall’s team is developing. They volunteered to be mentors, and have worked closely with the team since the project began.

Sodemann says the students were faced with a unique challenge in that no one was quite sure what the final product would look like.

“This project is pretty open-ended. They don’t have a definite task that they’re trying to accomplish in the end. They kind of have a series of increasingly difficult challenges that they’re trying to meet,” Sodemann says. But that’s what makes the process so valuable. The experience of tackling a problem that’s not clearly defined will prepare the team for their future careers.

“Having to decide for themselves what steps they need to take along the way is good practice for the way that problems really are out there in the real world,” Sodemann says.

For Marshall, who is also using the project to fulfill his senior capstone requirement, the opportunity to work closely, one-on-one with Sugar and Sodemann has been a highlight of the project. He also appreciates the exercise in problem-solving with students from different engineering backgrounds to accomplish a common goal.

“This team has been awesome for getting that experience of working with people that are like-minded, that are interested in the project, that want to do well on it,” Marshall says.

The project will wrap up at the end of the semester, when Marshall and his teammates will present Sandia with the culmination of their work, as well as participate in the Innovation Showcase on the Polytechnic Campus.

Written by Allie Nicodemo, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development

Allie Nicodemo

Communications specialist, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development

480-727-5616