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If you were looking for a poster child to be the image of the dramatic and powerful impact that 3D printing is having on quality of life, you wouldn’t need to look any further than the smiling face of five-year-old Mia Gonzalez.

2098a_300It’s not every day that the team at Stratasys can brag that they helped save a young girl’s life and so there’s no shame in their excitement over their contribution to the successful heart surgery that was performed on Mia. A patient at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, part of the Miami Children’s Health System, Mia was born with a rare heart malformation known as the double aortic arch. Those suffering from this condition have a vascular ring that restricts their airflow because it is wrapped around either their esophagus or their trachea.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 12.24.36 PMYou don’t need a medical degree to recognize that the consequences of such an occurrence are more than a little frightening. This potentially fatal condition that could have resulted in the loss of their little girl was the source of years of quiet terror on the part of her family for years. The symptoms of this heart problem are very similar to those presented by asthma and it often goes undiagnosed until it is too late. Luckily for Mia, she had an excellent doctor who was able to work to get the right diagnosis. That, however, is just the beginning.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 12.25.49 PMPreparing for the surgery is no cakewalk either. Each heart is different than any other and the risks in surgically addressing a malformed heart take that differentiation to another level entirely. In order to prepare for the surgery, the surgical team took data gathered from MRI and CT imaging and created a 3D digital model that could be turned into a physical model using Stratasys 3D printers.

Dr. Redmond Burke, the Director of Cardiovascular Surgery at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, explained the vital nature of such a physical model to the successful resolution of a surgical intervention on a child’s heart:

“The challenge is a surgical one, how do you divide this double aortic arch and save her life without hurting her. A lot of these babies’ hearts are like Rubik’s cubes, and you can’t give somebody a piece of paper with a picture of a Rubik’s cube on it and say ‘how do you solve this?’ You have to hold that object in your hands and then come up with a solution.”

And that’s exactly what they did. The 3D printed model of Mia’s heart allowed them to have multiple opportunities over a period of time to study the specific anatomy of her particular heart and develop the best possible plan for intervention.

2098_300Now, thanks to the model and to the brilliant surgical team, Mia is living the life of a normal five-year-old girl. Her parents are settling into their more relaxed existence as well. Her mother, Katherine Gonzalez, summarized the impact of the successful surgery:

“Going from four-and-a-half years of not knowing to, all of a sudden, in less than a two month time frame, she’s back – out of her surgery and back to normal. So, you know, that has been a great experience for us. She’s very active, she loves dancing, she loves baseball. She likes doing everything. So now she’s going back to a normal life and not being worried.”

That kind of contribution is priceless and Stratasys is working to make it part of what happens all the time. The introduction of 3D imagine and 3D modeling into surgery is, without a doubt, one of the greatest advancements since the introduction of anesthetic. It truly takes the medical team forward out of the darkness and uncertainty towards the best possible solution for any individual need.  Discuss this story in the 3D Printed Heart Forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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