Three-dimensional printing technology can make surgery safer for children with congenital heart disease and reduce the duration, as well as the number of invasive procedures, required.
Richard Kim, MD, a cardiac surgeon at Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), recently used a 3D printed heart as a model to plan a life-saving procedure for his young patient, Esther Perez. The child was born with a rare, life-threatening cardiac defect.
Esther had a ventricular septal defect, a fairly common congenital anomaly. However, her particular defect was unusual and would require complex surgery to repair it. Her intra-cardiac anatomy required complex re-routing of the blood supply, a procedure only performed at a handful of other pediatric hospitals nationwide.
Typically, surgeons are not able to determine their approach until they open the chest, put the child on a heart bypass machine, survey the problem and then, make a quick decision on how to proceed with repair. Since the variation in normal anatomy is increased in hearts with congenital abnormalities, an exact replica - a three dimensional roadmap allows surgeons to strategize before entering the operating room.
Instead of opening the chest and making a decision about how to proceed, I could immediately begin fixing the problem," said Kim, who is also an assistant professor at theKeck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. "A 3D model allowed me to plan the surgery in advance, which meant Esther spent less time in surgery and received less anesthesia - making the procedure safer."