3D printing technology allows for greater peace of mind for both the surgeon and patient these days, allowing for better navigation of complex health issues as well as practice beforehand. The days of surgeons having to practice on a variety of substitutes that, besides cadavers, aren’t a very good or true representation of human organs or flesh may be in the past forever.
Also in the past for Ariana Smith, 17, is the severely dangerous nature of an aortic aneurysm that without treatment had the potential to cause death. To make sure the aneurysm was not going to rupture, doctors wanted to surgically insert a special stent for simultaneously expanding the artery and blocking the aneurysm. The procedure is extremely complex, however, and surgeons were concerned about operating on the teenager, hailing from Michigan, who — along with her family — had no knowledge of any health condition before her mother brought her in for a fairly routine test after discovering a sibling had a heart murmur.
“We were devastated to hear this news. Ariana had no symptoms,” said Jacqueline Foster, Ariana’s mother. “I understand an aneurysm is considered a silent killer. We hoped and prayed that everything would turn out ok.”
An energetic and busy teenager involved in athletic activities like cheerleading and volleyball, Ariana had absolutely no warning or any signs regarding the aortic aneurysm. Upon an abnormal EKG, her initial doctors were alerted to a potential serious issue, and the teen was referred to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, which is a part of the Detroit Medical Center (DMC). It was there, after a cardiac catheterization, that surgeons knew there was a serious health issue that required a sense of urgency in solving.
The team caring for Ariana consisted of cardiologists Daisuke Kobayashi, M.D., Richard Humes, M.D., Thomas Forbes, M.D., and Daniel Turner, M.D.
“Ariana’s condition was extensively discussed with our pediatric cardiovascular surgeons and cardiologists in order to provide the best treatment and outcome. Surgical therapy was a high-risk operation for her age and anatomy which could lead to possible complications with her aorta,” says Dr. Kobayashi.
Luckily for Ariana, the team caring for her just happened to be at one of only a few hospitals involved a study that could actually affect her outcome specifically — and positively. The COAST II trial (COarctation of the Aorta Stent Trial) is sponsored by the NuMED company (manufacturer of cardiovascular medical products for children) and is approved by the FDA. The procedure would consist of the insertion of a special coated stent that actually becomes part of the lining of the blood vessel and prevents blockage.
Due to the seriousness of the procedure, surgeons proceeded cautiously, and conferred with Materialise regarding the use of a 3D printed model of Ariana’s heart. Materialise was open to working with the team and indeed was able to make a model of her heart from a CT scan, using their famed Mimics Innovation Suite software and HeartPrint services.
“At Materialise, we strive to create a better and healthier world and are proud that our software and services were able to help the great team at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan to make a positive impact on Ariana’s life,” said Todd Pietila, Cardiovascular Business Development Manager at Materialise. “It was a tremendous honor to support this case and we look forward to continued collaborations.”
While 3D printed models of organs are extremely helpful for surgeons in making diagnoses and then deciding on potential treatments which may also be a matter of life or death, they are also in some cases invaluable because they offer the surgeons the chance to practice a delicate procedure not often — or in this case, ever before — performed.
“Using the 3D printed model of Ariana’s aorta, we performed a ‘practice-run’ or simulation in the cath lab, where we actually placed a stent into the model. This allowed us to precisely plan the procedure and see how the stent responded in her unique and tortuous anatomy. Then, when we performed Ariana’s actual procedure, we had a good idea of how it was going to go,” said Dr. Turner.
The new procedure was successful, and much faster than a traditional surgery would have been. Ariana was in the hospital for a night and then up and out the next day, with a return to school the following week.
“We are so thankful to God and all of the nurses and doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Ariana is doing great and we would not have had her treatment anywhere else,” Jacqueline says.
Due to the teamwork of Materialise and the surgeons at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, their resourcefulness and willingness to innovate may not have only saved Ariana’s life, but they also spared her a longer hospital stay and recovery time. The young girl was able to get back into life much more quickly, and they hope for no further complications due to the aneurysm.
“We anticipate that Ariana will not require surgery to treat this condition. Dr. Kobayashi will follow her closely in the office. Most importantly, this experience will allow us to treat future patients more safely with the use of 3D printing technology. This is only the beginning,” Dr. Turner says.
Stories like Ariana’s are, amazingly, becoming more common due to the innovation of brilliant, open-minded doctors worldwide and the technology of Materialise and 3D printing. What other innovations do you see 3D printing offering the medical industry? Have you or do you know anyone who has been part of any procedure which involved use of a 3D model beforehand, or a 3D printed implant? Share with us in the 3D Printed Aorta Model forum thread over at 3DPB.com. Check out the video below detailing Ariana’s 3D printed model.