Baby’s life saved by 3D-printed heart

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The use of a 3D-printed heart by surgeons saved the life of a baby boy who was born with a congenital heart defect during July. This was not however, a 3D organ printed from tissue, but a model of a heart which allowed the team of surgeons based at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian to practise prior to the main event.

The baby suffered from a complicated heart disease. Both the pulmonary arteries and the aorta rose from the right ventricle and he had a huge hole in his heart. A CT scan was unable to help the doctors devise a surgical plan as the baby’s heart was only the size of a walnut.

By using the CT scans and with the aid of funding from Matthew’s Heart of Hope, the team were able to order a model heart from Cardiovascular Business Development Manager, Todd Pietila, based at Materialise. Pietila created a 3D model of the heart by using the Mimics Innovation software from Materialise, and captured the structure and defects of the heart in accurate detail.

Two days thereafter, the team were able to obtain a 3D-printed heart model made of flexible material which could be manipulated and cut into, allowing them to plan the route to take to repair all the defects in the heart during one surgical procedure, rather than three or four procedures. At the age of one week, the baby underwent a successful procedure, allowing him to live a happy, long life.

A congenital heart surgeon and the director of congenital and paediatric cardiac surgery, Dr Emile Bacha, said the baby had holes in his heart, which are quite common with CHD, but the chambers of the heart were also unusually formed, almost like a maze. He said that in the past they would have had to stop the infant’s heart and take a look inside it before making a decision on what they could do. He stated that by making use of a 3D-printed model, it was like having a road map which guided them.

Materialise said that the model was so successful that the hospital and the company are already working together on other cases.

Dr Bacha said the success of the surgery makes it difficult to imagine entering an operating theatre for another complex case without the help of a 3D-printed model. He said it will definitely become the standard of care for the future and he is happy that they are leading the way.

Image Credit: Bridget Coila

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