Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a cardiac monitoring device that is intended for use in patients who have suffered a cardiac event. The soft and flexible patch can be affixed to the outside of the heart during a routine procedure, but does not require a second procedure to remove the device later, as it is fully biodegradable. The patch is transparent, and so should allow clinicians to image the heart as normal, while the microelectrode array within it helps to monitor heart activity in terms of optical and electrical mapping of cardiac dynamics. The device can stream cardiac data to clinicians and can also provide pacemaking functionality if required.
Cardiac disease is a major source of death and morbidity in our aging population. The researchers behind this latest cardiac technology report that almost 700,000 people in the US die each year from heart disease, and of these, almost one third of deaths occur during the months immediately following a serious cardiac event, such as an infarction, largely due to complications that emerge after the initial event. With this in mind, the importance of closely monitoring these patients after such a cardiac event is clear.
“Many deaths that occur following heart surgery or a heart attack could be prevented if doctors had better tools to monitor and treat patients in the delicate weeks and months after these events take place,” said Luyao Lu, a researcher involved in the study. “The tool developed in our work has great potential to address unmet needs in many programs of fundamental and translational cardiac research.”
These issues inspired these researchers to develop a cardiac device that can help to monitor and even treat these complications as they arise. The idea is that the device could be affixed to the outside of the heart during the procedure to treat the initial cardiac episode and then it can reside in place for the following weeks and months. However, cleverly, the technology will not require a follow-up surgery to remove it again, as it is completely bioresorbable.
“Several serious complications, including atrial fibrillation and heart block, can follow cardiac surgeries or catheter-based therapies,” said Igor Efimov, another researcher involved in the study. “Current post-surgical monitoring and treatment of these complications require more sophisticated technology than currently available. We hope our new device can close this gap in technology. Our transient electronic device can map electrical activity from numerous locations on the atria and then deliver electrical stimuli from many locations to stop atrial fibrillation as soon as it starts.”
Study in journal Science Advances: Soft, bioresorbable, transparent microelectrode arrays for multimodal spatiotemporal mapping and modulation of cardiac physiology