Stretchable electronic devices help to simplify heart surgery

  The catheter based on printed stretchable electronics
The catheter based on printed stretchable electronics

A team of researchers from different international universities and institutes has used stretchable electronics to create a multipurpose medical catheter that can both monitor heart functions and perform corrections on heart tissue during surgery.

The device marks the first time stretchable electronics have been applied to a surgical process known as cardiac ablation, a milestone that according to the researchers could lead to simpler surgeries for arrhythmia and other heart conditions. The researchers had previously demonstrated the concept to apply stretchable electronics to heart surgery, but with this research improved the design’s functionality to the point that it could be utilised in animal tests.

Central to the design is a section of catheter that is printed with a thin layer of stretchable electronics. The catheter’s exterior protects the electronics during its trip through the bloodstream; once inside the heart, the catheter is inflated like a balloon, exposing the electronics to a larger surface area inside the heart.

With the catheter in place, the individual devices within can perform their specific tasks. A pressure sensor determines the pressure on the heart; an EKG sensor monitors the heart’s condition during the procedure and a temperature sensor controls the temperature so as not to damage surrounding tissue. The temperature can also be controlled during the procedure without removing the catheter.

The team includes researchers from McCormick School of Engineering, Seoul National University, the University of Texas at Austin, Zhejiang University, the Harbin Institute of Technology, the Institute of High Performance Computing in Singapore, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Tufts University.

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