A Tandon professor has created a simulation that will test whether a child’s heart surgery will be successful before the surgery takes place. Vittoria Flamini, Industry Assistant Professor at NYU Tandon’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, developed a computer simulation project that enhances the efficacy of pediatric pulmonary valve replacements.
In 2011, the FDA approved the first artificial heart valve that could be implanted without open-heart surgery. The Sapien Transcatheter Heart Valve inserts an artificial valve through a pencil-thin catheter, which is then expanded with a balloon to enlarge the valve opening. The process, often referred to as balloon valvuloplasty, is minimally invasive to the patient; however, it is not entirely void of risks.
Flamini said that there is currently no true guarantee that Sapien Transcatheter Valves will fit — the exact drawback that her simulation solves. Using Flamini’s computer simulations, doctors will be able to determine whether the artificial valve will fit the patient’s heart and ultimately, whether or not the surgery is even necessary.
“We are evaluating the risks without exposing the patient to those risks,” Flamini said.
The project’s development began in the summer of 2014, when Professor Flamini and NYU Langone professor Puneet Bhatla expanded upon their existing research regarding heart disease complications. The testing process exclusively involves retrospective cases, as Flamini examines batches of medical images of already completed surgeries. Blinded to the results of the actual procedures, she tests the photographs with her students and meets with Bhatla to confirm whether her results are correct.
The simulation process itself is quite rapid, taking only a couple of days to complete. It is the preparation for the simulation — capturing images, image analysis, creating a model, preparing the model — that is time consuming.
Flamini said her work was motivated by the widespread desire for personalized solutions.
“All of us want medicine to be custom-tailored to us,” Flamini said. “The simulation is entirely patient-specific.”
The venture is funded by the KIDS of NYU Foundation, an organization that supports children’s services at NYU Langone through philanthropy and advocacy for research and clinical care enhancement.
Tandon Dean Katepalli Sreenivasan said Tandon looks forward to collaborating with clinicians at NYU Langone because medical research involves technological innovation. Sreenivasan said this partnership between the two schools embodies the vital relationship that exists between technology and medicine.
“More broadly, I strongly believe that technology must be in the service of society, and nothing touches the lives of people as much as advances in medical and clinical technology does,” Sreenivasan said.
A version of this story appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 16 print issue. Email Jami Tanner at [email protected]