Miniaturised Ultrasonic Sensing Devices for Vascular Stents

Supervisors: Dr Steven L Neale, Dr John Mercer (MVLS)

This PhD project will develop miniaturised ultrasonic sensing devices for vascular stents. The goal is to produce a device that can continually monitor the state of the stent, detecting if a blockage is reforming.

Despite significant improvements in healthcare provision, cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the number one cause of death in the World. Atherosclerosis is the pathological condition that underlies two thirds of heart attacks and strokes, which in turn contribute to more than 4.3 million premature deaths in Europe per annum. The economic burden to the European Union for cardiovascular disease is estimated at over €196 Billion. The current clinical approaches of stenting coronary artery plaques with a small metal stent device or heart by- pass surgery have significant risk and associated costs. This proposal attempts to build towards a smart stent device that can be deployed using existing NHS catheterisation facilities, yet provides advanced technological properties that are predicted to reduce patient morbidity and mortality. A stent which can interact and report on its own vessel status, such as when the vessel re-blocks or clots would be transformative. In this project we will investigate how placing a miniature ultrasonic transducer within the stent before it is deployed could help to monitor the health of the vessel and the stent within it. Current research on smart stents include using the electrical impedance change associated with the build up of tissue around the stent to detect if it is becoming re-blocked however the ultrasonic approach may provide greater information about the amount and position of material building up giving key clinical data informing on whether an intervention is necessary.

The project will build on an existing interdisciplinary collaboration between Dr Steven L Neale, who is in the Centre for Medical and Industrial Ultrasonics (C-MIU) in the School of Engineering, and Dr John Mercer, in the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences. The work will involve building the miniaturised ultrasonic transducer and testing it using a variety of vascular stents and tissue phantoms and will be based both within the school of Engineering and the British Heart Foundation building and as such it is suitable for an enthusiastic and diligent Engineering/Physics student with interests in developing technology for biomedical applications.