We have fascinating jobs as writers here at 3DPrint.com, learning so much about how 3D printing is changing the world—from manufacturing to making space rovers for Mars. And there’s certainly a whole lot more in between, to include huge strides in the area of medicine. Nothing is more moving and fulfilling though than learning and sharing information about children with serious health problems whose lives have been changed, and sometimes saved, due to 3D printing.

Little Hearts of China is a charity that gives advanced medical care to children in western China. Without such help, they would be left without the treatment required to correct defects caused by congenital heart disease. Materialise is heavily involved in this endeavor, creating 3D printed models so surgeons are able to study the heart complications of their young patients, as well as using them as guides in their operating rooms.

[Image: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute]

In a recent blog, Materialise highlighted the story of fourteen-year-old Ma Chengqian. The teenager was born with a heart defect that was not only complex—it had been diagnosed so late that doctors found treatment to be ‘very challenging.’ Ma’s condition is called Tetralogy of Fallot, involving four issues or abnormalities that occur within the heart simultaneously.

Ma was accepted into the Little Hearts of China project after his local doctor spoke with Professor Liu Jinfen at the Shanghai Children’s Medical Centre. They performed CT scans which were then sent to Belgium, where Materialise is headquartered. Ultimately, a 3D printed model of Ma’s heart was created at a Materialise ISO-certified facility.

“We plan to support 15 to 20 children with complex CHD in the first phase of the project, that is, before August 2018 in this project,” said Kim Francois, General Manager of Materialise China.

With such a visual aid, doctors like Professor Jinfen were able to learn much more about Ma’s heart. Jinfen is not only an expert in CHD in children, but he was also the surgeon for Ma’s case. With the 3D printed model from Materialise, he could see check out Ma’s condition from every angle.

[Photo: Shanghai Daily]

“At present, in China, the incidence of congenital heart disease is about 4 to 7 per cent,” says Professor Jinfen. “Each year, at the centre, the number of congenital heart surgeries cases in children is about 3700, with a success rate of 98%. However, out of all our contacts with congenital heart disease, about 3% of the cases are extremely complex. Surgical difficulty and risk of surgery will be much higher than an ordinary congenital surgery.”

Younger patients have smaller hearts, which is one of the reasons the 3D printed replicas are so invaluable, allowing the surgeons to have a more realistic visualization of what they are about to operate on. Little Hearts of China, created by Shanghai Children’s Medical Centre, Materialise and the Ai You Foundation, was able to give Ma medical help, and even covered the expenses of travel and lodging. Materialise has been putting its advanced 3D technologies to use around the world, as medical care providers have turned to the tech to assist even the most delicate patients.

3D printing and advanced solutions provide an important service for physicians and patients alike, as the best care can be received. Professor Jinfen also noted an important aspect of expanding availability:

“The technology is a beacon of hope for these children.”

Discuss in the Materialise forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Materialise]

A 3D printed heart model from Materialise [Photo: Materialise]

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