3D Printing Saves the Lives of UAE Children with Congenital Heart Disease

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The United Arab Emirates is a commonly mentioned location in the 3D printing world. The country, and in particular its city-state of Dubai, is on a mission to become a world leader in 3D printing, but the UAE is also a leader in a far more worrisome area – congenital heart disease. According to Dr. Laszlo Kiraly, consultant pediatric surgeon and head of the department at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), one in every 160 infants in the UAE is born with congenital heart disease, or about 500 per year – a much higher rate than the rest of the world.

That’s a dire statistic in itself, but add to that the fact that 75% of those babies will require surgery in order to survive, and 66% will need that surgery within the first six months of life. Furthermore, 25-30% will require more than one, and sometimes as many as three, surgeries. It’s lucky, then, that the country where this disease is so prevalent also happens to be especially advanced in 3D printing. The technology has only been widely available in the UAE for a couple of years, but the country has more than made up for any lost time by advancing so quickly – and much of that advancement has come in the medical sector.

[Image: SKMC]

Dr. Kiraly points to the recent case of a three-year-old girl who had a very serious case of congenital heart disease – in her young life, she had already had two heart surgeries when Dr. Kiraly began treating her. The hospital’s multidisciplinary team was averse to performing additional surgery, but a 3D printed model of the child’s heart showed an obstruction that hadn’t been caught originally.

“The patient was in very bad shape – the multidisciplinary’s option was to not go for surgery because it was far too risky,” explained Dr. Kiraly. “When we created the 3D model, we saw something else, something we would not have been able to find before.”

He and his team performed the girl’s final surgery recently, clearing the obstruction and setting her on a path to good health – a path that wouldn’t have been possible without sophisticated 3D modeling and printing technology. Another young girl that Dr. Kiraly treated recently was born with her heart on the right side of her body, and like the other patient, surgery was considered too risky. A connection needed to somehow be created between her heart, lungs, and lower body, and a 3D model allowed Dr. Kiraly and his team to figure out exactly how to do that so that surgery could be safely performed.

Dr. Laszlo Kiraly

“We came up with a solution on how to drive the connection inside the heart without being compressed,” Dr. Kiraly said. “This is something we couldn’t have done without the model.”

In addition, as many as seven newborns with congenital heart disease were recently saved in the UAE thanks to 3D printing as well as other advanced technology such as virtual surgery. Delicate procedures such as the closing of holes and the rotation of blood vessels have been performed either on virtual models or physical, 3D printed organ replicas before the actual operations, enabling the surgeons to ensure that they have their plans and techniques perfected before performing them on actual children. Without the technology, such surgeries may have been too risky to attempt.

“We can put the 3D models in our hands, rotate and further study the anatomy,” said Dr. Kiraly.

He believes that despite the advancements already being made with medical 3D printing in the UAE, the technology is only just beginning to develop to its full potential.

“This national programme has a full potential to grow into a regional programme,” he said. “In the future, we will use bio-scaffolds and biodegradable materials, which means we can do more complex surgeries with less risk.”

Discuss in the UAE forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Khaleej Times]

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