Title Tag: 3-D Printing used to create a sensor that monitors cardiac electronic activity | Stanford University A team of medical students at Stanford University is making a big breakthrough in the medical device industry. The students are using 3-D print tools that are designed to be cardiac-mapping catheters. Catheters are used by surgeons to map the electrical activity of the heart and find disturbances. The initial research began a year ago, and the students are moving the project from the research stage to clinical practice.

3-D Printing Used to Create cardiovascular electronic measurement tools

Credit: Stanford University

The research is mainly focused on atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib. AFib is a heart disorder in which the heart beats irregularly and rapid to the point where it disrupts the flow of blood from the heart to the rest of the body. This type of disorder is the most common rhythm disorder, affecting more than 6 million Americans. AFib and is responsible for over 750,000 hospitalizations each year.

Lead researcher Kevin Cyr, says, “Finding and understanding rhythm disturbances in patients has been challenging because of the one-size-fits-all nature of existing medical devices, which use electrodes that contact the surface of the heart to measure electrical activity.” Kevin and his team have created devices that are customized to each patient, conforming to the unique contours and divots of the individual’s heart.

In order to do this, patients undergo an MRI or CT scan that records a digitized 3-D image of their heart, which is then fed into a 3-D printer. Cyr says, “Using the scan, we can replicate the natural shape and anatomy specific to each patient, and apply it to the device.”

The device is a small, thin, flexible, silicone membrane with tiny holes in a grid-like formation, each hole holds a small electrode. When placed on the surface of the heart’s atrium, the device can measure the electrical activity over that specific region of the heart. The data is then transmitted to a computer, where it produces a recording that shows the electrical activity at that site. The recordings produce a heat map of the electrical activity.