KCU Student Doctor Receives Award for Outstanding Research

Aug 29, 2016

Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCU) student Nicolina Smith, was selected from among 143 entrants to receive the American Association of Clinical Anatomists' (AACA) Sandy C. Marks Jr. Student Poster Presentation Award for outstanding research and study, and clarity of presentation.

Under the tutelage and guidance of Drs. Anthony Olinger and Larry Segars, KCU Division of Clinical Anatomy, and Dr. Travis Kauffman, UMKC Department of Radiology, Smith presented findings from "Using Anatomical Landmarks to Avoid Phrenic Nerve Injury During Atrial Ablation Procedures."

The work of Anatomy Fellow, and 3rd year Student Doctor, Nicolina Smith is a beautiful example of how classical anatomical research can be used to inform modern medicine and lead to reduced morbidity in patients,” said Barth W. Wright, Ph.D., Interim Division Chief of KCU department of anatomy.

Smith’s research involved atrial fibrillation (AF) an arrhythmia that effects upwards of 2.7 million Americans.

The cryoballoon allows the ablation to occur with minimal damage to the endothelium of the pulmonary veins. But the treatment runs the risk of phrenic nerve injury.

Many methods are currently used to identify and try to preserve the phrenic nerve (PN) during the cryoballoon ablation, however none of them are considered gold standard.

Using 30 cadaveric specimens, Smith was able to take measurements of where the PN is in relationship to the right superior pulmonary vein (RSPV) antrum as well as the lateral border of the 6th thoracic vertebrae (T6).

The research concluded that  using T6 as a landmark, which can be viewed under fluoroscopy during the procedure, a physician can now make an approximate map for the physician to locate where the PN lies.

“By accurately measuring and compiling data on this nerve normal relationship to the region to be ablated student doctor Smith has given interventional radiologists the best chance of proper placement and favorable outcomes with no deleterious effects,” Wright added.

The award was presented during AACA's 33rd annual conference held June 13 through 17 in Oakland, California. Hosted by the University of California - San Francisco, the conference provided an opportunity for students from around the world to present research in four categories: Education; Limbs and History; Torso and Neck; and Head and Anatomical Services.