Surgeons at a New York hospital have credited 3D printing with helping to save the life of a 2-week-old baby who required complicated heart surgery.
Using MRI scan data, Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York City 3D printed a copy of the child’s heart, which was both riddled with holes and structured unusually.
Surgery was going to be complicated and dangerous, but this 3D printed heart provided the surgeons the opportunity to study the organ, and develop a detailed surgery strategy.
“The baby’s heart had holes, which are not uncommon with CHD, but the heart chambers were also in an unusual formation, rather like a maze,” Dr Emile Bacha, who performed the surgery,told Connecticut local media.
“In the past we had to stop the heart and look inside to decide what to do. With this technique, it was like we had a road map to guide us. We were able to repair the baby’s heart with one operation.”
The project was funded by Matthew’s Hearts of Hope, a Connecticut –based foundation.
They have said that another 3D printed heart is in the making, with details to follow in the next month.
Marie Hatcher, the foundation’s founder, told The Independent:“This is a game changer for CHD babies with complicated heart anatomy.
Normally the first time the surgeon sees the heart is when the chest is open, now they have the ability to plan out the surgery ahead of time while looking at a 3 D Heart of the baby or child’s heart.”
This is yet another example of 3D printing coming to the fore of cutting-edge medical technology. Just the other day, Kentucky surgeon Erle Austin also credited 3D printing with improving the odds of succeeding in the most difficult surgeries, reports Wired.
“I’m using 3D printing to help me understand a complicated heart,” he told Maker Faire in Rome.
Like the team at Morgan Stanley, Austin had used the technology to inform his approach to heart surgery on a young child at Kosair Children’s Hospital.
“If I went in and did surgery, took off the front of the heart and did irreparable damage, the child would not survive.”
Using an experimental version of the Makerbot Replicator 2, Austin printed a copy of the heart in three parts.
He said: “Because I have an identical reconstruction I can take off the front of the heart and see inside of it and make a plan as to how I’m going to direct the flow of blood and move the obstruction in the heart.”
While the US is certainly pioneering this high-tech biomedical research, the NHS is exploring the use of 3D printing in modern medicine.
Wiltshire-based 3D printing company Replica 3DM provided 12 NHS Trust hospitals with manufacturing stations designed to help create replica hips for surgeons to practice hip replacement surgeries.
Last month, a scientist at Nottingham Trent University used 3D printing to produce a prosthetic human heart “as close as you can get” to the real thing.
The Ministry of Defence has expressed interest in the project.