Looking forward to better heart care

June 8, 2010

Schulich Heart Centre's own Dr. Brian Courtney has built a device that can see inside the heart in 3-D, eclipsing today's catheter-based imaging technology.

"Complicated cardiac procedures become a three-dimensional problem, and there aren't very good techniques to guide 3-D procedures," says Courtney.

At least there weren't until now.

Current catheter-based imaging technology only shows doctors a two-dimensional image, and the catheter only displays images beside its tip, not in front.

Courtney's 3-D forward-looking intracardiac echocardiography (ICE) catheter displays images in high-resolution 3-D images, in real-time. And it looks ahead, literally.

Like current catheter-based imaging techniques, Courtney's device will be used to check that cardiac stents are placed correctly, or to identify problems that can't be detected by a coronary angiogram (a type of X-ray).

But, warns Courtney, "impact on patient care and the health care system won't be seen until the device is in doctors' hands."

To get it there faster, Courtney founded Colibri - a company to commercialize the technology.

His next step is to develop the technology-to refine, validate and test the device, and to secure more funding. Longer-term, Courtney may even add therapeutic capabilities - which would be a first - to the catheter.
Now he is building a device that may be Colibri's next project. The device - a catheter that can detect a heart attack in the making - could have an even bigger impact in an economic climate where, says Courtney, "only the best ideas will survive."