A paper recently published in Nature Materials by Kim and colleagues highlights exciting work in materials science to improve the mechanical balloon catheter, that staple of cardiology used to open stenotic arteries, insert and expand stents, and find and ablate tissues in the heart that are the source of dangerous arrhythmias.
In this study, the researchers designed a “smart” balloon catheter specifically for cardiac ablation therapy, a technique that is used to treat sustained arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation (A-fib). Time is often an important factor in treating such conditions, and using conventional mechanical catheters to find the malfunctioning heart tissue then inserting a second catheter to perform the ablation is a time-consuming process that takes a great deal of art and skill on the part of the practitioner. New catheters are improving some of the mechanics, but they still do not provide important sensory information to the physician such as local blood flow, temperature, pressure, etc.
Here the researchers sought to integrate semiconductor devices and sensor technologies directly into the membranes of balloon catheters. Continue reading “Smart Gloves (and catheters): Tracing a Beating Heart May Now Be at Your Fingertips”