3D_Systems_Logo_-_from_Commons (1)The complexities and impacts 3D printing is making on the world are myriad. We report on so many amazing companies and innovations that are, indeed, changing the world and processes on many levels for design and prototyping to manufacturing and marketing. The transformations that are most ‘heartwarming’ however, are the cases where 3D printing is able to make a difference in the life or health of a child.

Recently, 3D printing was able to directly assist in the surgical outcome of a child due to the ongoing innovations provided by 3D Systems. While the creation of 3D printed models has been used for assistance in many different surgeries, this is one of the youngest we’ve reported on.

The toddler in question, only 20 months old, was having not only trouble breathing, but also swallowing. Both are terrifying issues to have challenges with for an adult or child, and fixing the problems warranted a lengthy and intricate surgery by cardiothoracic surgeons from the Washington University School of Medicine. The procedure itself was performed at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital facility.

3DS was responsible for creating a realistic, color, 3D printed model of the little one’s heart. The model was able to help surgeons prepare for the detailed and delicate surgery they would have to perform, keeping them and the patient at the operating table for two and a half hours.

digital-thread-healthcare-solutions3D printed models like the one used in this case offer a variety of substantial benefits. One, they allow the surgeons a preview of what they are going to be doing while performing an intense procedure. The model allowed the surgical team to get a good look at the architecture of the child’s vessel structure, which was crucial, as they would have to move heart vessels causing pressure on the windpipe and esophagus. Two, the team had added visual aids to explain and discuss the health issues and impending procedure with the young patient’s very concerned parents.

“With 3D printing, we were able to print a replica of the patient’s heart anatomy, developed from medical imaging scans, and use that model to get a handle on what surgeons would be faced with in the OR and to communicate with the patient’s parents and other team members,” said Dr. Shafkat Anwar, of the Pediatric Cardiology team at Washington University.

Dr. Anwar 337589worked on development of this particular 3D printed heart model with 3DS, now responsible for helping medical professionals in thousands of surgeries due to their innovations in surgical planning and personalized medical solutions.

The surgeons performed the surgery to relocate the vessels and relieve obstruction of the airway causing such issue for the toddler, who is now, thankfully, both breathing and swallowing easier.

 “We are excited to see more and more patients benefitting from the use of 3D printed medical models and virtual surgical planning, especially in challenging and complex cases like this heart surgery, where the precision afforded by 3D technology is integral to the procedure’s success,” said Kevin McAlea, Chief Operating Officer, Healthcare Products, 3DS. “From surgical training to implants to prosthetics, 3DS’ personalized medical solutions are helping provide favorable outcomes and improving quality of life.”

Have you been in a medical situation where a 3D printed model was used before a procedure or in explaining the process? What are your thoughts on how these 3D models are helping medical professionals today? Share with us in the 3D Printed Heart Model for Toddler forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

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