The Five Most Innovative Heart Technologies to Look Out for in 2018

Heart disease and its associated complications are the leading cause of death in America. Due to its paramount importance within the field of healthcare, research and therapeutic development within this area of care are consistently of high priority among medical professionals, innovators and scientists.

Some of the most novel and cutting-edge innovations in care made great headway last year – here are a few to keep an eye out for in 2018.

1. Pinhole Camera

In 2017, London researchers invented a camera small enough to sit on the tip of a needle. Measuring less than 0.5mm across, it is the first camera in the world to utilize optical fibres, allowing images to be captured from inside the heart.

Who is it for?

There are circumstances in which an individual may meet the criteria for minimally invasive surgery that would potentially facilitate quicker recovery than traditional open heart surgery.

Minimally invasive heart surgical approaches could involve mitral valve repair or replacement, tricuspid valve repair or replacement, aortic valve replacement, coronary artery bypass surgery and others.

How does it work?

First, the camera emits a brief pulse of light. Then, reflections are detected by a sensor in the camera, followed by the capture and creation of images from within the heart. The images produced by this pinhole camera gives doctors an unprecedented view of the heart’s soft tissues.

The ‘pinhole’ camera has been in development for more than four years and researchers are hopeful to initiate the first phase of their clinical trial in 2019.

What are the benefits?

This camera would provide cardiologists with real-time imaging from within the heart, enabling them to differentiate between tissues at an extraordinary depth and assisting them in navigating the high-risk situations that may occur during these procedures.

2. Protected TAVI

TAVI: Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVI: Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation, is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that allows a new valve to be placed in an existing and damaged aortic valve.

As is the case with all heart-related procedures, TAVI comes with its risks – the most common being a heightened risk of stroke. In 2017, a new technology known as cerebral embolic protection, often referred to as Protected TAVI,  was approved for patients who are undergoing TAVI. A cerebral embolic protection device acts as a tiny net. When deployed during the TAVI procedure, it can capture and remove debris before reaching the brain, providing a layer of protection in mitigating the risk of stroke.

Who is it for?

TAVI is a minimally invasive procedure available to patients suffering from aortic stenosis (a calcified and narrowed aortic valve), including some candidates who have already undergone aortic valve replacement surgery.

For patients diagnosed with aortic stenosis whose Heart Team has recommended TAVI, a cerebral embolic protection device can help reduce the risk of stroke.

How does it work?

A cerebral embolic protection device was designed to filter the blood to prevent particles from reaching your brain by capturing and removing them during a TAVI procedure. A temporary protection device is placed in the bloodstream between the heart and the brain during the TAVI procedure and then removed at the end of the procedure. Watch this short, educational video to learn more about how a cerebral embolic protection device works.

What are the benefits?

If your Heart Team has recommended TAVI, a cerebral embolic protection device can reduce the risk of brain injury such as stroke during the procedure.

Ask you Heart Team if Protected TAVI™ is right for you, and check here for a list of providing hospitals.

3. Therapeutic Hypothermia

Therapeutic Hypothermia is a treatment that has been administered in various forms since the 1940s. However, in recent years it has been found to be effective for wider use within hospitals via novel methods of application.

Who is the treatment for?

Therapeutic hypothermia is distinguished as a treatment that is ‘dramatically changing outcomes for people who suffer cardiac arrest.’ Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating abruptly, causing restricted blood flow to the body’s organs. This may include restricted blood flow to the brain, which can often cause irreversible damage.

How does it work?

Therapeutic hypothermia involves deliberately cooling a patient’s body temperature after a traumatic event, such as cardiac arrest. The ideal body temperature is between 89°F to 93°F.

There are various methods that healthcare professionals can use to lower body temperature, including the use of cooling pads, ice packs and/or cooling blankets. Another method is internal cooling, which is when chilled fluids are delivered through an IV directly into the bloodstream.

What are the benefits?

Lowering the body’s temperature after cardiac arrest increases the likelihood of a full recovery. It can also reduce inflammation in the brain, lessening the risk of permanent damage.

As the applications of therapeutic hypothermia continue to expand, (including those which support traumatic brain injuries) this treatment option becomes more and more widely available.

4. Soft Artificial Heart

Though it might sound a bit like science fiction, artificial hearts have been used by surgeons for nearly 50 years. These hearts were traditionally constructed of plastic and metal. However, due to their rigid composition, artificial hearts have a tendency to allow blood to clot, which can oftentimes lead to stroke.

The currently-held idea here is that artificial hearts that are less rigid could function more like a human heart, while increasing blood flow and reducing the chances of clotting. Once implanted, the soft artificial heart would be sutured to the patient’s valves, arteries, and veins.

Who is it for?

Patients who have suffered from heart failure and are currently awaiting a heart transplant could potentially benefit from soft artificial heart.

How does it work?

Using computer assisted design (CAD) software and 3D printing technology, doctors in Switzerland are experimenting with softer, less rigid materials, such as silicon. Their hope is that a softer composition will function more like a human heart, and would also allow for individualized shapes and sizes for a patient-personalized method of treatment.

What are the benefits?

The average wait time for a heart transplant is longer than six months. Doctors hope that the soft artificial heart will keep patients alive without needing to undergo another risky transplant surgery. Ultimately, a soft artificial heart would improve blood flow and lessen the chances of clotting.

Unfortunately, this product is currently still in development and may be decades away from everyday use.

5. Supersaturated Oxygen Therapy

Supersaturated Oxygen Therapy is now being studied as a new emergency treatment to be applied directly following a heart attack. Heart attacks occur when blood flow to the heart is blocked. This disruption of blood flow can damage or even destroy part of the heart muscle.

Who is it for

More than 500,000 Americans have their first heart attack every year. For those people, supersaturated oxygen therapy applied within six hours of their first symptoms can reduce and even reverse damage to the heart tissue.

How does it work?

During a heart attack, tiny capillaries swell and restrict blood flow to the surrounding tissue. Immediately following a heart attack, emergency responders administer a procedure to open and expand the blocked heart artery, and although the artery regains proper blood flow, tiny capillaries may struggle to fill with oxygen.

Supersaturated oxygen therapy is prepared by mixing saline with a high concentration of oxygen. This high-oxygen saline is then infused into the patient’s own blood and delivered directly into the coronary artery. Swelling within the cells decreases as the new oxygenated blood is absorbed, improving blood flow to surrounding heart tissue.

What are the benefits?

In a 2017 study, supersaturated oxygen therapy was shown to salvage damaged heart muscle, as well as reduce the size and mass of dead tissue in the heart after a heart attack.

References:

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. How Creative FDA Regulation Led to First-in-the-World Approval of a Cutting-Edge Heart Valve. Available at: https://blogs.fda.gov/fdavoice/index.php/tag/transcatheter-aortic-valve-replacement-TAVI/. Accessed February 15, 2018.

New Heart Valve (Edward Life Sciences). Is TAVI (Or TAVI) Right For You? Available at:

https://newheartvalve.com/about-TAVI/is-TAVI-right-for-you/. Accessed on February 15, 2018.

The Guardian. How to Cool Down Our New Year Brains. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jan/07/how-to-cool-down-our-new-year-brains. Accessed on February 15, 2018.

Yahoo News. The Camera That Can See INSIDE a Beating Heart. Available at: https://uk.news.yahoo.com/camera-see-inside-beating-heart-094454642.html. Accessed on February 15, 2018.

Healthline. Scientists Developing Softer, Longer Lasting Beating Heart. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/scientists-develop-artificial-heart-for-transplant#4. Accessed on February 15, 2018.

WRAL. New therapy promises quicker recovery after heart attacks. Available at: http://www.wral.com/new-therapy-promises-quicker-recovery-after-heart-attacks/15609146/. Accessed on February 15, 2018.

IVANHOE. Supersaturated O2 Therapy for Heart Attacks. Available at: https://www.ivanhoe.com/medical-breakthroughs/supersaturated-o2-therapy-heart-attacks/. Accessed on February 15, 2018.