German researchers have developed a new metal-free guide wire to allow for the use of MRI, instead of X-rays, for imaging the location during catheterization procedures. Clinically, the benefits of the MRI approach is that a contrast agent is not required to be injected into the patient, the precise location of the catheter’s tip can be easily identified on the computer screen, and no one has to be exposed to unnecessary radiation. We think such a technique can potentially improve outcomes in coronary and general vascular caths, by improving the precision and duration of these procedures.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT in Aachen have now found a way of avoiding both the radiation and the contrast medium. In collaboration with colleagues at Philips and University Hospital Aachen, they have developed a guide wire made of glass-fiber-reinforced plastic. “Because the guide wire is made of plastic the imaging can be performed by magnetic resonance tomography instead of computer tomography,” says IPT scientist Adrian Schütte. “This is not possible with metal guide wires as the metal wire acts as an antenna and heats up too much – this would damage the vessels, and could cause proteins to clot.” Magnetic resonance tomography has many advantages for doctors and patients. It does not produce ionizing radiation like computer tomography, and soft tissue is clearly visible, so there is no need for a contrast medium.
For the manufacture of the two-meter guide wires the researchers use the pultrusion method, which is the standard procedure for making continuous profiles from glass-fiber-reinforced plastic. “Diameters of half a millimeter or less are required for the guide wires – that’s the absolute minimum,” explains Schütte. The new guide wires will be presented at the JEC trade fair in Paris (Hall 1, Stand T18) from March 24 to 26 and will be used in hospitals for the first time in the next few months.