A Visionary Approach to Heart Surgery

A Canadian company's first-of-its-kind imaging system could help surgeons yield results that are a cut above, even with minimal incisions.


Minimally invasive surgeries are procedures that are performed with tiny incisions, as opposed to large openings through the skin. Due to the smaller cut, the patient will most likely enjoy a faster recovery period and less pain than with traditional surgeries, all while maintaining the same benefits.

These incisions are so small that surgeons are only able to get their instrument into the opening, and they can’t see what they’re doing without the support of sophisticated image guidance technologies customized for specific types of operations.

Conavi Medical is a Toronto-based medical device company that develops image guidance technologies for use in minimally invasive heart operations. The devices help cardiologists to see inside the heart and perform both established and emerging surgical procedures more safely and quickly, and with better results.

Conavi’s devices fill an unmet clinical need for image guidance technologies due to the increasing trend towards minimally invasive surgeries: “the paradigm of image guidance is one of the themes within personalized and precision medicine that is getting a fair amount of attention around the world,” noted CEO Brian Courtney in an interview at the MedTech Innovation Summit in Dublin.

The Novasight Hybrid imaging system

Clinicians need to take detailed pictures of coronary arteries (the blood vessels that deliver blood to the heart) to make informed decisions when approaching surgery.

Intravascular coronary imaging allows clinicians to capture images of diseased vessels from inside an artery, but it is currently limited since they must use one of two options — Intravascular Ultrasound (IVUS) or Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) — to achieve the best picture possible, but even then it’s incomplete.

The Novasight Hybrid is the world’s first intravascular imaging system that facilitates the simultaneous imaging of coronary arteries using both IVUS and OCT. It combines the fine resolution and contrast of OCT with the wider field view of IVUS, delivering a superior product with strong clinical value.

Users can visualize and measure the borders of different passageways in the patient’s heart, and also mark images with annotations and notes. The device comes as a single disposable catheter: a thin, hollow tube that is inserted into vessels that lead to the heart.

In terms of applications, this technology could improve outcomes with operations like angioplasty and stenting, which are performed four million times around the world every year and play a crucial role in the treatment of coronary artery disease. Better imaging has the potential to significantly improve clinical outcomes during these operations.

“We found this technology quite versatile, based on the synergistic ability of the two imaging modalities to visualize coronary atherosclerosis (the build-up of plaque inside the artery walls) and guide coronary interventions,” commented Natalia Pinilla Echeverri, an interventional cardiologist at Hamilton Health Sciences, to BusinessWire.

“We also see several future research applications of this hybrid imaging system that may provide unique insights into the pathophysiology of coronary artery disease and enable enhanced decision making during minimally invasive procedures,” she added.

In early 2020, Conavi announced that they would be taking this Canadian innovation to Japan. They received regulatory approval from the Japanese government to market the product to healthcare systems across the country, and distribution will be handled through a partnership with Japan Lifeline.

“Until now, physicians in Japan have had to choose between IVUS or OCT when performing [angioplasty and stenting],” said Courtney to BusinessWire. “We are delighted that Conavi and Japan Lifeline can now begin to offer both of these highly complementary imaging techniques on a single catheter to physicians in Japan.”

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Barry is a journalist, editor, and marketer for several media outlets including HeadStuff, The Media Editor, and Buttonmasher Magazine. He earned his Master of the Arts in Journalism from Dublin City University in 2017 and moved to Toronto to pursue a career in the media. Barry is passionate about communicating and debating culture, science, and politics and their collective global impact.