Printed 3-D heart model saves newborn with congenital disease

Thanks to ground-breaking medical technology, surgeons at New York-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital were able to save the life of a 1-week-old baby in an amazing way.

A printed 3-D model of the baby’s heart was used as a road map for surgery on the infant, who was born with a life-threatening form of congenital heart disease (CHD,) according to a hospital news release. Using the model, a team of surgeons was able to repair all of the heart’s complex defects in just one procedure. Babies born with this particular form of CHD normally require three or four high-risk surgeries.

“The baby’s heart had holes, which are not uncommon with CHD, but the heart chambers were also in an unusual formation, rather like a maze,” said Dr. Emile Bacha, director of congenital and pediatric cardiac surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. “In the past, we had to stop the heart and look inside to decide what to do. With 3-D printing technology, we are able to look at the inside of the heart in advance, giving us a road map for the surgery.”

unnamed Printed 3 D heart model saves newborn with congenital disease

Photo credit: NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital

The baby was actually diagnosed with CHD while in the womb, according to the news release. This early diagnosis afforded doctors the time to develop a plan of treatment before birth. After the baby was born, pediatric cardiologist Dr. Anjali Chelliah worked closely with a company called Materialise, which specializes in 3-D printing for healthcare.

The 3-D heart model was created with data from a low-dose CT scan performed when the baby was only one day old. Two days after this data was received, the printer produced an exact replica of the heart, which allowed doctors to examine and understand the exact details of its congenital defects.

“After the success of this surgery, it’s clear that 3-D models can be successfully used to help surgeons in complex procedures,” said Dr. Bacha, in the news release. “This technology is the future, and we are proud that NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital is leading the way.”

Wow! You have to admit this is some pretty fascinating technology going on here. (Grey’s Anatomy-esque, anyone?) And just think of the implications. If doctors were able to successfully save a tiny, 7-pound baby with the help of a printed 3-D heart model, how else can 3-D printing help the medical world?

Featured photo via Thinkstock

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