One important consideration to take into account while designing and testing medical devices is how they’re going to be used. In the case of vascular devices, they will be used in arteries and veins and I’ll describe some of the test considerations. While performing your verification testing, you want to ensure that you have a reasonable clinical model to perform testing under.
For example you might have a device that is intended to be used in the Right Coronary Artery (RCA) as shown below (image from Wikipedia):
How do you ensure your device works correctly without using it on a person? You find an appropriate model.
Models of various anatomies are available from Elastrat and Shelley Medical Imaging Technologies. ASTM F2394 also contains a schematic of a two dimensional (2D) model recommended by the FDA for some applications. Although it is best to ensure you pick a model based on the vessel characteristics that your device will likely see (such as vessel diameter and tortuosity). Using the ASTM or another off the shelf model can get you into trouble if for example you’re testing a guide catheter and pushing it into the smallest vessels when it is only intended to sit in the aortic arch.
A 2D model is easy to construct and use, but not necessarily the most accurate, it generally consists of just two pieces of machined plastic (bottom with a clear top) with a piece of tubing inserted. The easiest model consists of just a radius as shown below (by the way, I did the diagram myself in MS PowerPoint!).
Ask your clinical source what the tightest radius your device is likely to see in-vivo and simply machine a curve of that diameter. Insert a piece of silicone tubing into that radius to simulate a vessel wall more accurately than hard plastic and you’re ready to get started (you can use pig vessels to line your tortuous pathway, but this is no fun to set up). It is easy to create 2D models of various tortuous pathways. Creganna (Medical Device Technology, May 2006) shows an example tortuous pathway in some of their coronary block model simulated use testing:
You can see the simulated aortic arch as the large looping arch (start from the top most pathway) and then into tighter arteries as the model continues.
A 2D model obviously lacks some realism as it is possible that your device will need to turn multiple planes during use. Although it may be argued that the worst case scenario is actually the 2D model as it stresses only those two dimensions, adding the third dimensions allows additional flexibility in most devices as they are generally concentric. In the case of a non-concentric model, you can perform your testing to the worst case in the 2D model, setting your weakest side up to take the most abuse. The 2D model is also arguably tougher on your device than clinical use as the give is limited to the wall thickness of the tubing you insert.
For 3D models, you’re probably better off buying one from the companies listed above, although they can get expensive, and can be damaged so you need to be careful. An example heart model from Elastrat is shown below.
Now you want to run whatever tests you can using the model. For example, a guide wire or catheter turns to failure test is simple enough, just hold the distal end and turn the proximal end until the device breaks. However, to really simulate use, you should put the device through the model, and while the device is still in the model, hold the distal end then turn the device until it breaks. The addition of the model adds a bit of complexity to the test, but is a better test system.
I have seen the FDA question models, so document your clinical justification why the model you use is appropriate in the protocol. If you’re using a model that you bought, you should ask them to provide you with the justification.