During this week I was able to make some progress with my summer project and experience another area of the hospital outside of neurology.
During this week I was able to observe a cardiothoracic surgery with Dr. Girardi. The procedure was for an aortic valve replacement. A few years ago I took a course in tissue engineering and one unit of the course was about medical grafts, including heart valves. With this background I was able to better appreciate the nature of the material that was being grafted in place of the native heart valve that was no longer functioning. The procedure itself was invasive, it required an open sternotomy and that the patient go on bypass as the new valve was put in place. One aspect of the procedure that I found very surprising was that during the actual valve replacement, the coronary arteries of the heart are not perfused by the bypass machine. This means that throughout the procedure the muscle of the heart is not circulated with oxygenated blood. From speaking with the anesthesiologist in the OR it would seem that this is due to a plumbing issue. The location of the system to deliver oxygenated blood back to the body cannot reach the coronary arteries near the near the heart off of the aorta. Dr. Girardi was performing the procedure with one of him fellows and while suturing the new valve in place he mentioned that the tension and location of the sutures was particularly important for preventing leaks and other healing issues with the valve. Though I am not a materials science person I would think that there would be a need here for reliable means of attaching the valve that does not leak and can interface with the native tissue of the heart well.
On my project, I have been able to present the mouse data that I spoke about in my last entry. I was also able to show some meaningful trends in the data as well. With this part of the project complete I have moved on to implementing a simulation for the next kind of fitting algorithm that is going to be used for the data to recover information about the underlying composition of the voxels in the image.
I look forward to finally seeing some good results from my project and exploring the hospital more next week.