Locally-designed device could save babies from surgery

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Babies with hypoplastic left heart syndrome may soon be able to forego risky surgery due to a device designed by doctors, students, and technicians from West Michigan.

The condition is complex: a portion of the baby's heart is pumping with only one chamber instead of two.

Dr. Joseph Vettukattil, chief of pediatric cardiology at Spectrum Health, is working with Spectrum Health Innovations and students and staff from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Mich.

The device is a stent that would eliminate the need for open-heart surgery in babies who are only days old when they are diagnosed with HLHS. Each device would be custom-made from a 3D model of the patient's heart. It could improve patients' survival rate and delay the need for certain operations.

Dr. Brent Mulder, the Senior Director of Spectrum Health Innovations, says the final product could take up to 10 years to complete, but the wait will be worth it.

He added that this experience is a win for both Spectrum and Michigan Tech. "It's a great experience for the students, it's great for us. We leverage their expertise they get to see clinical problems --real-world problems -- and get to put a face to that problem."

The device as already won several awards at Michigan Tech's 2017 Design Expo. The next step in creating this stent would be studying how the device would affect blood flow through the heart.

The hope is that the stent will perform well in animal studies, followed by human clinical trials.

The device is currently not FDA approved.

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