Last week, a new research has been presented at the American Heart Association meeting in Chicago. 3D printed models of tiny little hearts might help surgeons plan in advance the most precise details, in an open heart operation that could save a baby’s life.
The replicas respect every detail of the baby’s heart and could help save the lives of many children with congenital heart defects. The first two cases that were solved successfully, due to the 3D printed model created, were an inspiration. The impact was huge and the results were amazing. One of the study’s co-authors, Dr. Matthew Bramlet, a pediatric cardiologist at the University Of Illinois College Of Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Illinois, both in Peoria explained how the 3D printed model could allow the surgeons to have a better understanding on the problems of the heart, before they begin the operation. This way, they can have a preliminary view on the intervention’s steps and even potential solutions that might have not been possible, if not prepared in advance.
Tiny 3D printed model of the heart
Sometimes, babies are born with congenital defects. The surgeries that are saving their life as babies are usually done so that they can survive and grow. But such congenital defects require many interventions, done over the years. This is how babies grow up having holes in one, or sometimes, in even all 4 chambers of the heart. Once they grow and become stronger, at 6-9 months, another procedure is being prepared. One that can try repairing the heart better.
Current MRI scans that guide the hands of the surgeon during an intervention are tricky. Since the heart at stake is so tiny, the images are hard to distinguish and therefore, to interpret properly. The idea of using detailed MRIs to design replicas that are anatomically accurate came as a potential solution to these challenges. The 3D printed models were created with the collaboration of Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center, also in Peoria.
Holding the replica of the heart in their hands surely improves the chances that the baby has. It is yet another impressive implementation of the 3D technology, in a field meant to save lives. The study is still small, but the team looks forward to a wider implementation.