New iterations of heart valves are often designed using pre-clinical models, and then are tested in cadavers and/or a small number of patients. Their design is, of necessity, largely shaped by the pathology encountered in this limited data set, rather than the larger range of pathology found in the population at large. Thus, when a prosthetic valve is placed in a unique patient’s anatomy, exactly how it will perform is largely an educated guess. 3D printing-based biomechanical testing can provide an objective assessment that eliminates guesswork. Multi-material 3D printing technologies, voxel-based printing and an increasingly diverse library of materials are facilitating the creation of models that mimic the properties of tissue. These models are being incorporated into workflows that we have designed to biomechanically test physical interactions between patient anatomy and prosthetic valves. These workflows help facilitate the choice of a patient-matched valve style and size and can predict complications that result from unfavorable interactions between a valve and a patient’s anatomy. Moving forward, rapid testing of valves through a large collection of diverse and procedurally challenging 3D-printed anatomy will speed iterative design at a fraction of the cost of cadaveric studies and without the risk of first-in-man approaches.
- Describe the emerging role 3D printing technology is playing in the design and testing of medical devices.
- Describe new 3D printing technologies and materials that are driving the creation of more biomechanically accurate medical models.
- Describe available workflows for testing interactions between patient-specific anatomical models and prosthetic valves