Equipment 27 July 2022

Using 3D printing technology to improve care for heart patients

We are proud to be funding a key project exploring how bioengineering, 3D printing technologies and Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be combined to provide tailor-made treatments for people with heart valve disease.
Dr Apu Bharucha in a clinical setting, leaning and operating the mitral valve simulator

Mitral regurgitation is a serious heart valve condition often seen in elderly and frail patients with multiple illnesses. For them, the risks of undergoing conventional open heart surgery are too high. On top of the difficulties in predicting whether a patient will benefit from surgery, mitral valve disease also varies from person to person, making other newer and less invasive treatments (such as robotic-assisted surgery) expensive and difficult.

Supported by our £10,000 grant, and working in collaboration with scientists in Canada, Dr Apu Bharucha, a structural heart intervention research fellow, and his team have been able to create life-size 3D printed models of patients’ mitral valves and cavities from ultrasound images. Using a bench-top heart simulator, the team are studying the 3D replicas in-situ in order to use machine learning (AI) to model disease, practice less-invasive surgery and plot potential treatment outcomes.

They plan to share their learnings via the development of an open-source online library of mitral valve and cavity images –the first of its kind in the world. This valuable resource will enable other surgical teams, nationally and internationally, to print 3D models for use in research and training. The team also aims to help create a national surgical training programme to teach others how to use 3D printing technology and perform minimal access mitral valve surgery.

“We hope to develop bespoke disease management strategies, tailored to the individual – because everyone’s heart valve disease is a little different.”
Dr Apu Bharucha
Gail Scott-Spicer (King's College Hospital Charity's CEO), and Musallam Al Akash, Consultant Colorectal Surgeon at King's, at the robot's unveiling. Gail and Musallam are standing in front of a giant robot and are holding a giant yellow charity cheque for £1 million.

Revolutionising treatment with robotic surgery

In 2022, we made our largest grant for several years, providing £1 million towards a state-of-the-art Robot Assisted Surgical (RAS) system to help transform patient care.