3D-printed_heart-2-610x570Using 3D printed organs for pre-planning complex surgical procedures is gaining a much wider acceptance and becoming far more commonplace than just a year ago. Doctors and hospitals all over the world have begun to take the process seriously after a string of highly successful operations have proven it to be an invaluable tool for many surgical teams. Not only do the 3D printed organ replicas help patients gain a greater understanding of exactly what is wrong and how it is going to be fixed, but it allows doctors to plan the entire surgical procedure before the patient is even on the operating table. This not only often significantly reduces the time required to perform long and complicated surgeries, but it often eliminates unexpected complications and surprises.

3dp_printedfetus_insideheartIn many ways China had been exceptionally slow to jump into the 3D printing industry, but that hasn’t stopped them from doing a very good job of playing catchup to the West recently. In only a few years the number of 3D printing applications that the Chinese have begun to use has exploded and we’re seeing them using the technology everywhere, including in the operating rooms. Chinese doctors have recently used 3D printing technology to perform a complex procedure that was able to separate a pair of conjoined twins, perform a complicated brain surgery that saved the life of a 50-year-old woman, and repair the jaw of a three-year-old girl.

This week Chinese doctors have had another first after they successfully performed a dangerous open heart surgery on a nine-month-old baby suffering from a severe heart defect using a 3D printed heart model to plan the surgery. Despite being born a healthy 12 pounds, the baby was quickly found to be having a shortness of breath. Doctors discovered that the baby had a severe Congenital Heart Defect called a Total Pulmonary Venous Anomalous Drainage. The child was born with all four of his pulmonary veins malpositioned and he also suffered from an atrial septal defect which caused blood to flow between the upper chambers of the heart.3dp_chinaheartbaby_defect_diagram

“He was taken to the hospital and was critically ill with heart failure and severe pneumonia, because the boy is so young and small, it was difficult to develop the best surgery plan using just an ultrasound examination. If treatment had been delayed, the baby’s chance of dying before his first birthday would have been as high as 80 per cent,” explained Zhang Xueqin, the director of the paediatric cardiac surgery center at the People’s Hospital of Jilin and the baby’s surgeon.

This was the first time that a full-sized 3D printed model of a patient’s heart was used to pre-plan a complicated surgery of this nature in China. The defect that the child was suffering from is quite rare and extremely difficult to repair. However with the 3D printed heart replica the operation was completed on March 11th and the baby has already been transferred to a general ward and is expected to survive with little to no lasting ill effects.

“With the model, we were able to know precisely where and how we should cut, and how big the incision should be. And with such a thorough plan, we spent only half the time we had expected to complete the surgery,” Doctor Zhang Xueqin said.

What do you think of this amazing medical procedure? Discuss in the 3D Printed Heart Model forum over at 3DPB.com.





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