The Jump Trading Simulation & Education Center, a part of OSF Innovation, has dozens of 3D printed hearts in its heart library, which was begun so that doctors and medical students would have a comprehensive collection of hearts and heart defects to study and practice with. Now the Tomsk Research Institute of Cardiology is working on a similar project, with help from the TPU Modern Manufacturing Technology Scientific and Educational Center. The TPU Center has been 3D printing models of individual hearts, taken from tomography images, so that surgeons can study defects and carefully prepare for surgery in advance.
Over the summer, the TPU scientists were 3D printing models of adult hearts, and now they’ve moved on to children. The hearts of children require a very different approach than those of adults, as they’re smaller and present more of a challenge when it comes to reaching certain areas. According to doctors, operating on children is twice as difficult as operating on adults is, so practice with a child-sized heart, complete with defects, can really help surgeons figure out what approach they’re going to take before they go into the operating room.
“Our cardiac surgeons suggested creating 3D-models of hearts,” said Professor Vyacheslav Ryabov from the SSMU Department of Cardiology, Deputy Director for Research and Clinical Care at RIC, Head of Emergency Cardiology Department. “Today surgeons don’t blindly start a planned operation. Using modern diagnostic visualization technologies they try to obtain information prior to operations, which can help to plan the operation process.”
Normally, surgeons would prepare for operations by using 3D simulation – but the problem with that kind of technology, said Ryabov, is that computer models only show the external image of the heart, along with single slices of the internal anatomy. With 3D printed models, the heart can be opened up so that internal defects can be seen.
“For example, when we receive patients with rare pathologies, we always want to get 3D-models and see how these pathologies are actually arranged,” said Dr. Konstantin Zavadskiy, leading research fellow at the RIC Laboratory of Radionuclide Testing Methods. “Moreover, medical residents and PhD students study at the institute and due to these simulators they will be able to investigate rare and complex interrelations of anomaly structures inside the hearts of sick people that will help them to become good physicians.”
Currently, the scientists are 3D printing the heart models out of rigid plastic, but they want to begin printing them from soft rubber to better mimic the feel of an actual heart. They also want to reduce the time that it takes to 3D print a heart.
“We need two weeks to create a heart 3D-model,” said Vasily Fyodorov, Director of the Modern Manufacturing Technology Scientific and Educational Center. “Meanwhile, patients often need urgent help. We should reduce printing time to 1-2 days. For this purpose, it is required to select an appropriate equipment and to develop proper software which will directly convert MRI data into the stl files for 3D-printing. Now we are looking for funding to develop this software. Ideally, we would like the 3D printer to be available in the hospital.”
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