Top Story, Devices & Diagnostics

3D printed heart helps save the life of a 5-year-old girl with rare condition

Surgeons can only prepare so much for certain procedures because each person’s body and organs are slightly different. With the help of 3D printing, a model can be made to allow for more detailed, individualized planning before an operation.

Stratasys Ltd., a 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions company, has released a medical success story involving Mia Gonzalez – a 5-year-old girl who suffered from a double aortic arch.

The rare heart condition, which can sometimes be misdiagnosed as asthma because of breathing restrictions, involves a vascular ring that wraps around the trachea or esophagus. The operation performed to treat this condition is complex and intricate. For that reasons, surgeons at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami used Stratasys 3D Printers to create a model of Gonzalez’s heart so the surgical team could plan more effectively.

“Once patient scan data from MR or CT imaging is fed into the Stratasys 3D Printer, doctors can create a model with all its intricacies, specific features and fine detail. This significantly enhances surgical preparedness, reduces complications and decreases operating time,” said Scott Rader, GM of Medical Solutions at Stratasys, according to a release.

“The challenge is a surgical one, how do you divide this double aortic arch and save her life without hurting her,” Dr. Redmond Burke, Director of Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, part of Miami Children’s Health System, said. “By making a 3D model of her very complex aortic arch vessels, we were able to further visualize which part of her arch should be divided to achieve the best physiological result. It’s very powerful when you show a family ‘this is your baby’s heart and this is how I’m going to repair it.’”

Gonzalez’s procedure was strategic based on the model and was a success in the end.

Photo: YouTube screengrab