The external 3D anatomical model of the patient allows the doctors of DPCI to study the conditions of the pathology and then decide which treatment to pursue. The tests carried out on 3D printed arteries will reveal whether performing a catheterization is safe or not. With the 3D printer’s help, it is possible to study a patient’s specific blood vessel without the need for invasive procedures. To reduce the risks of patients being subjected to catheterizations, DPCI uses the 3D printer to 3D print the arteries of the patients. “The aim is to perform tests, before the catheterization, to see if it is worth performing this procedure or not,” says Senra. To perform these tests, both the patient’s artery and an “umbrella” are printed simultaneously.
The umbrella is an embolic protection device implanted in the artery before the catheter is inserted. “By adjusting the umbrella in the artery, we can be certain that the embolic protection device will, in fact, cover the area of the entire vessel,” says Gospos. “If that doesn’t happen, there is a risk the catheter will touch the walls of the vessel and dislodge embolisms. This could lead to problems for the patient.” What Gospos describes is distal embolization – when the catheter insertion dislodges small plaques from the walls of the vessels. These plaques can lodge in small vessels such as brain arteries where they could cause a stroke. A stroke can lead to serious complications, such as loss of strength in limbs and facial muscles, aphasia and sometimes death, so it’s important to correctly determine if a catheterization is right for any given patient.
The DPCI team can now prototype a patient’s vessels, study the catheter passage, analyze the risk of embolisms and determine whether to recommend catheterization. “We use 3D printed prototypes of the artery and umbrella to simulate how the catheter insertion would take place and if the vessel walls would be protected during the entire procedure,” said Senra. “The 3D printing technology helps us separate patients who are able to go through the procedure from the ones who aren’t.”