Heart disease is the most common cause of death in New Zealand — every 90 minutes a person dies of its consequences. The standard treatment of implanting a scaffolding ‘stent’ locally into the diseased artery of the heart is used in more than 2 million patients each year world-wide. But in every 100 patients, 5 will experience severe complications and 2 will die suddenly from stent failure.
For some patients, treatment fails because the current generic method is not suitable for every individual. Differences in vessel shape and blood flow of the patient’s heart arteries influence the success or failure of the treatment. Research Fellow Dr Susann Beier from the University of Auckland is currently investigating the improvement of treatment strategies to account for individual differences, moving from a generic to a personalised effort. By analysing the data of more than 500 patients, population blood vessel shape and blood flow can be explored using a combination of sophisticated super-computer simulations, 3D-printing and medical imaging. This allows the testing for individuals in the lab, and can help to overhaul the current generic treatment approach to prevent complications and sudden deaths.
Dr Susann Beier’s research is partially funded by the Auckland Academic Health Alliance Fund and Cardiovascular Society of Australia and New Zealand.