Skip to content
Surprising Science

3D Printing Help Surgeons Treat Complicated Heart Defects

A recent study found that supplementing x-rays, MRI, and ultrasounds with a 3D-printed model of a patient’s heart helped surgeons perform delicate procedures to repair severe abnormalities.

Most heart surgeons rely on x-ray, MRI, and ultrasound technology to help them prepare for a complicated procedure. According a report by the American Heart Association, new research suggests that 3D-printed models of a patient’s heart would boost a surgeon’s ability to treat heart abnormalities and birth defects. Unlike the aforementioned trio of resources, a 3D-printed heart model would allow doctors to examine in great detail “complex structural complications in the heart’s chambers that occur when heart disease is present at birth.”

From the report:

“Researchers used an inexpensive plaster composite material to create heart models of a 9-month-old girl, 3-year-old boy and a woman in her 20s all of whom had complex congenital heart defects. After studying the models and traditional images, surgeons successfully repaired severe heart abnormalities in all three patients.”

“’With 3D printing, surgeons can make better decisions before they go into the operating room,’ said Matthew Bramlet, M.D., study lead author and assistant professor of pediatric cardiology and director of the Congenital Heart Disease MRI Program at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria. ‘The more prepared they are, the better decisions they make, and the fewer surprises that they encounter.

‘When you’re holding the heart model in your hands, it provides a new dimension of understanding that cannot be attained by 2D or even 3D images. What once was used to build trucks, we’re using now to build models of hearts.’”

Read more at the American Heart Association Newsroom

Photo credit: S_L / Shutterstock


Up Next