How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?

Courtesy Sunshine Heart
Courtesy Sunshine Heart

While I know that I should eat well, exercise regularly, not smoke, and have regular checkups – I don’t always do these healthy things, which puts me at greater risk for developing a heart condition. 

Apparently, I am not alone. I just read some staggering statistics on Heart Failure (HF) at the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. Five million people in the United States suffer from HF and 500,000 more are expected to join their ranks each year.  According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the 2006 costs associated with HF in the U.S. was 29.6 billion dollars.

Thankfully, there are many bioengineering researchers in the world who are using realistic simulation technology to study the heart and associated medical devices in amazing levels of detail.

Click to view animation of Stent analysis using Abaqus FEA
Click to view animation of Stent analysis using Abaqus FEA

Performing realistic 3D simulation of the human heart and medical devices requires being able to model human tissue, blood flow, nonlinear structures, and complex contact between the devices and the heart. SIMULIA has developed robust finite element analysis (FEA) and multiphysics technology within the Abaqus Unified FEA product suite.  This technology is being used by bioengineering researchers to simulate realistic physical behavior of the medical devices interacting with the heart, arteries, and blood vessels.

One of those researchers is Dr. William Peters, a cardiothoracic surgeon and and founder of Sunshine Heart in New Zealand. His patented C-Pulse has recently been accepted for human trials in the U.S. The device consists of a cuff that wraps around the aorta that inflates and deflates a membrane against the vessel’s external walls. This process makes the aorta pulsate in time with the heart, augmenting blood flow through the circulatory system and reducing the strain on the entire heart. Check out the complete case study here.

Milton DeHerrera Ph.D of Edwards Lifesciences  is another innovative bioengineer. At the 2009 SIMULIA Customer Conference, he presented a paper on the “Numerical Study of Metal Fatigue in a Superelastic Anchoring Stent Embedded in a Hyperelastic Tube”, coauthored by Wei Sun, Ph.D from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Connecticut. Their research is intended to  improve the virtual representation of human tissue and medical device interaction.

Adding to the complexity of developing medical devices is that ‘one-size does not always fit-all’. Dr.   Ken Perry has a cool medical device simulation blog site detailing his use of FEA and associated validation processes. Check out a couple of his recent posts – Identifying Worst Case Device Sizes and FEA and the FDA .

These dedicated researchers are helping to develop amazingly innovative and effective treatments that are truly capable of ‘mending broken hearts’. Now that I am aware of the alarming heart failure statistics, I plan to take a little more initiative in trying to keep my heart healthy.

Pass the fruit, veggies, and oats…will you join me?

Take care
Tim

PS: This is part 2 of my ongoing series on how realistic simulation is being used to improve medical devices and enhance the quality of our lives, stay tuned.

  • Gervais luc

    Hi Tim
    It is a very interessting article for many people suffering from HF are looking for new medical devices and effective treaments.
    Prevention is better than cure so we are all encourage to take more initiative in trying our heart healthy.

    Luc