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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Thursday, September 6, 2007

BU, Children's win grant to develop minimally invasive heart surgery

Attached to a steerable needle, miniaturized instruments
such as this tissue-nibbling device (shown next to a
sharpened pencil) could be used in minimally invasive
heart surgery.

Researchers at Boston University and Children's Hospital Boston have won a five-year, $5 million grant to make complex heart repairs possible without open-heart surgery.

Working with California medical instrument maker Mircofabrica Inc., Pierre Dupont of BU's School of Engineering and cardiac surgeon Dr. Pedro del Nido of Children's will develop robotic instruments that can reach the heart through small incisions in the chest and heart walls.

"The goal is to develop techniques where we are not only making just small incisions but actually working to repair defects inside the heart while the heart is still beating," del Nido said in an interview.

Patients would avoid potential complications associated with being on a bypass machine during open-heart surgery, while surgeons would still be able to achieve the precision possible with traditional surgical instruments. The project is primarily aimed at adults with heart disease, although there may be pediatric applications, del Nido said.

The National Institutes of Health Bioengineering Research Partnership award is the second grant for this project, del Nido said. The first grant, now in its fourth year, funded the creation of an imaging system in three-dimensional ultrasound to allow surgeons to see inside the heart. The new grant focuses on creating the tools to perform repairs.

Using real-time imaging, a surgeon will be able to use a joystick controller to guide instruments through the chambers of the heart. Tools could be deployed from the tip of an instrument to remove blockages, fix valves and close leaks in the heart.

Current minimally invasive techniques use catheters to bring devices into the heart, deploying tiny umbrellas to patch holes in the heart or using balloons to clear blockages.

"We view this as the next level of intervention that is in a way a hybrid of catheter-based intervention and open-heart surgery, using the tools of open-heart surgery in the reconstruction but the navigation through a blood vessel or through chambers of the heart while the heart is beating," del Nido said.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 05:23 PM
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