Catheter-based surgical interventions are now routine, so much so that navigating to the heart from an access site in the groin is considered ho-hum.
Once there, though, getting a catheter tip to the exact spot within the heart that requires treatment can still be exceedingly difficult. Unlike the vasculature used to get there, the heart doesn’t naturally guide the catheter’s path forward and so there’s a need to bend the distal end of the catheter in a very controlled manner so that it ends up precisely where needed.Project Moray is a venture that’s developing a highly versatile catheter that can move around a beating heart and position its tip so that its location and orientation are optimal for the procedure taking place. One of the project’s leads had a hand in the development of Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci robotic systems, something that bodes well for Project Moray.
The current prototype can bend a special catheter at different points along its length. Each of the bends can be made at different angles with respect to the catheter, and each can also be made sharper or straighter than the others.
In a difference from previous approaches, the catheter in Project Moray is really a microfluidic system that can selectively set different pressures at various spots along its body. This allows the control mechanism to be small, easy to operate, and less prone to mechanical faults. On the other hand, it makes the catheter uniquely capable of assuming complex shapes that other devices can’t match.
It is hoped that Project Moray will open up new options for cardiac surgeons in treating structural anomalies, implanting prosthetic valves, and the new technology could facilitate other techniques that have yet to be developed.