A lot has happened in the field of cardiology in the last two decades or so thanks to rapid technological advancements in the digital age. Since the outset of the technology era, not only has the prognosis and treatment of people with cardiovascular disease incredibly changed, but the practice of cardiology itself has also transformed by bounds and leaps. The signs of heart disease, stroke, and even hypertension are now caught way early before they become serious.
But that isn’t all; cardiology has made so many vast milestones and strides in the tech generation that we cannot enumerate all of them here. Nonetheless, in this article, we are going to walk you through amazing things and noteworthy leaps that the cardiology space has witnessed in the past 20 years, under the impact of the ever-evolving technology (or biotechnology, to be more precise).
Medical GPS Enables More Precise Heart Surgery
Yes, this might sound like something pick out of a Sci-Fi film, except it’s a reality. In early 2015, the doctors at MGH in Boston started using state-of-the-art GPS-like technology to treat a rampant heart condition called Atrial Fibrillation (afib). Affecting over 3.5 Americans, afib is a cardiovascular condition that is characterized by irregular heartbeat which can lead to shortness of breath, severe fatigue, and reduced stamina.
Thanks to GPS-mimicking medical navigation tech called Stereotaxis, doctors at MGH were able to guide catheters through the heart using magnetism, minimizing chances of tearing into the walls of blood vessels. The most common treatment of afib is through open surgery, which, unfortunately, exposes patients to a significant amount of x-rays. Needless to say, this can lead to cancer and other cardiovascular complications. The good news is that Stereotaxis can dial down the use of X-rays in treating Atrial Fibrillation by up to 90%.
While 3D printing is a relatively new technology, it has made major inroads in cardiology. A great example is a surgeon at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) who used 3D printing technology to generate a scale model and used it to plan an intricate surgery for his child patient. The little one had a rare, life-threatening defect in her heart.
Just recently, Biolife4D, a biotech startup based in Chicago announced that it can use 3D printing technology to bioprint heart tissue. For the shortest time, this tech has proven to be one of the most robust innovations in heart disease treatment because the bioprinted tissue can be stitched up over dead heart muscle to accelerate resurgence from acute heart failure. Of course, 3D bioprinting of heart muscle tissue is an extremely complex process, but it is undoubtedly a groundbreaking innovation in cardiology.
PCSK9 Inhibitor Drugs
Cardiologists are always looking to biotechnology for drugs that can help prevent heart failures and heart attacks. That’s why the introduction of PCSK9 inhibitors came as a huge relief for people at risk of heart failure. This is a nifty class of heart disease drugs that can help reduce the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood by 50% or even more. These innovative drugs are administered only once or twice per month through injection.
Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapies are an epitome of how the intersection of cardiology and biotechnology has made a significant impact on the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. Take BioCardia, for example; it’s an innovative clinical-stage biotech-regenerative medicine company that’s employing stem cell therapy to treat heart failure. Currently, the regenerative medicine company is developing two comprehensive stem cell-based biotherapies, CardioALLO and CardiAMP, which are geared toward heart failure as a result of a stroke or heart attack
What’s more, BioCardia has personalized screenings in place to help tell which patients would benefit most from its therapies. BioCardia was co-founded in 1999 by Simon Stertzer, M.D., one of the most renowned pioneers of coronary angioplasty in the US. He’s widely known for performing the first coronary balloon angioplasty in the United States in 1978.
An echocardiogram is one of the best innovations of the tech era in cardiology. It’s handy equipment that uses sound waves (and echo) to generate real-time images of your heart. In essence, the echocardiogram enables cardiologists and physicians to catch a glimpse of the state of your heart, and, therefore, zero in on heart disease early.
Over the past 20 years, echocardiogram has evolved, and we now have at least 4 types: transthoracic, transesophageal, doppler, and stress echocardiogram. In practice, this device can help identify issues with your heart’s chambers or valves, determine causes of chest pain or shortness of breath, and detect congenital heart defects before the baby is born. It’s truly a revolution tech in the world cardiology.
In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have rattled many industries, including medicine. They have also found use in many facets of cardiology, from prognosis to prevention and everything in between. Ultronics, an AI company based in the UK is one example of innovators leveraging artificial intelligence to revolutionize cardiology.
Its flagship product, also called Ultronics system, employes topological analysis to comb through myriads of data points gathered from one echocardiogram to help detect coronary heart conditions early.
According to Digital Authority Partners, the role of artificial intelligence in cardiology is eclectic, including precision disease stratification, novel therapeutic agent discovery, optimized resource allocation, the extension of physician efficacy, integration of multi-omics data, and continuous remote monitoring and diagnostics. No matter how you look at it, AI is the future of cardiology and will continue to drive enhanced patient care because cardiologists will be able to analyze and interpret diagnostics data faster, and more efficiently.
Smart Devices Equipped with Heart Rate Monitors
Smartphones are now equipped with gamified apps that monitor and help increase our physical activity. More importantly, smart gadgets like Apple Watch, Samsung Gear, and Fitbit are fitted with heart-rate sensors/monitors which can help you stay on top of your health and heart well-being. These wonderful devices can help especially patients living with cardiovascular disease to better manage their lifestyles and health.
Of the innovations of the past two decades in cardiology, nothing can come close to the heart-lung machine. It’s a piece of equipment loaded with state of the art technology in order to keep the patient alive on a heart surgery operation table.
There’s no question cardiology has come a long way in the last 20 years. Although the current cardiovascular disease situation is dire, it would have been worse had it not been for the proliferation of technology. But with continued advancement in biotechnology, AI, robotics, and drug-making, the future of cardiology is brighter than ever before.