Human Interest

Baby’s heart surgery aided by 3D printing technology

A young baby’s heart defects have been treated thanks to a revolutionary technology doctors used to guide them smoothly through his surgery. In July, a 2-week-old who had been born with congenital heart defects received heart surgery at Presbyterian Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital in New York.

The baby’s team of doctors used an MRI to collect data that was programmed into the 3D printer. The printer was then able to create a model of the baby’s heart, which served as a guide for the team to study in preparation for the baby’s surgery. They were able to see the defects and irregularities they would need to correct or work around. According to Marie Hatcher, who founded the charitable organization that funded the baby’s operation:

Normally the first time the surgeon sees the heart is when the chest is open, now they have the ability to plan out the surgery ahead of time while looking at a 3D heart of the baby or child’s heart.

This allowed doctors to determine their course of action without having to stop the baby’s heart — something they would have had to do to get an idea of what was going on without the 3D printer technology. Doctors were also able to complete their work in one surgery, which was great news for the baby.

According to Emile Bacha, a cardiologist on the baby’s team of surgeons:

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.

With technological advances, parents who formerly felt hopeless in the face of a difficult prenatal diagnosis are being given more options and more hope for their child’s future.

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