Stents have become common in treating heart problems. The problem: one in three individuals who have had a stent implanted to keep clogged arteries open and prevent a heart attack will experience restenosis.
That condition is the renewed narrowing of the artery due to plaque buildup or scarring — which can lead to additional complications.
But in a major development, a team led by UBC electrical and computer engineering professor Kenichi Takahata has developed a type of “smart stent”. It can monitor even subtle changes in the flow of blood through the artery, detecting the narrowing in its earliest stages and making early diagnosis and treatment possible.
“We modified a stent to function as a miniature antenna and added a special micro-sensor that we developed to continuously track blood flow. The data can then be sent wirelessly to an external reader, providing constantly updated information on the artery’s condition,” said Takahata.
The device looks like most commercial stents but uses medical-grade stainless steel. Researchers say it’s the first angioplasty-ready smart stent. Another plus to enhance its feasibility: it can be implanted using current medical procedures without modifications.
In managing heart disease, it’s imperative to check for restenosis, according to research collaborator Dr. York Hsiang, a UBC professor of surgery and a vascular surgeon at Vancouver General Hospital. “X-rays such as CT or diagnostic angiograms, which are the standard tools for diagnosis, can be impractical or inconvenient for the patient,” said Hsiang. “Putting a smart stent in place of a standard one can enable physicians to monitor their patient’s health more easily and offer treatment, if needed, in a timely manner.”
The device prototype was successfully tested in the lab and in a swine model. Takahata has the patents for the technology. Next steps: his team is planning to establish industry partnerships to further refine the device, put it through clinical trials and eventually commercialize it.