Feb.3, 2015 | By Alec

It’s no secret that 3D printing has a lot of potential in the medical field, but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that we won’t have to wait years and years before this technology can make a real impact in hospitals. 3D printed replicas of organs or bone structures have already been used to successfully complete a number of complex surgeries, but a new case in the Netherlands truly shows that this can be life-saving.

For in late October, surgeons at the academic hospital LUMC in Leiden, the Netherlands, successfully completed a complex heart operation on a baby girl who was just three months old. The young Jasmijn was unfortunately born with a hole between both heart ventricles, a complex condition called ‘ventricle septum defect’ that needs to be operated on to ensure survival. Furthermore, the girl’s aorta and pulmonary artery were both attached to the right ventricle, while the aorta needs to be attached to the left.

While a complex surgery to perform in any case, the girl’s heart was only 3.5 cm small (smaller than an ordinary egg), leaving absolutely no room for error or delay. Therefore, for the first time in Dutch medical history, Jasmijn’s surgeons developed a 3D printed replica of her heart to allow them to prepare for the surgery and to ensure that it wouldn’t last a minute longer than necessary.

First and foremost, it allowed doctors to come to a decision about what to do before they cut the young baby open: would they be able to make this regular two-ventricle heart, or were they forced to turn it into single-ventricle heart? The first would be preferable in every way, ensuring better quality of life and a longer life expectancy. Fortunately, the 3D printed heart made this an easy problem to tackle. As child heart surgeon prof. Mark Hazekamp explained, "at a glance, I was able to immediately determine that it would be possible to turn this in to a regular two-ventricle heart."

To create the 3D printed heart, the Leiden surgeons used a high-speed CT scanner. "In the past, we could only rely on an echo or on individual pictures of a CT scan to assess the situation, but a 3D replica is so much easier to work with. Sometimes we were even only able to assess our options on the operating table and therefore lose valuable time," pediatric cardiologist Dr. Arno Rust explained.

This CT data was gathered using a specially high-speed CT scanner in the Leiden hospital, than was capable of generating a 3D display of Jasmijn’s entire heart in less than a second. This 3D printed replica of the bab‎y’s heart was printed by prof. Valverde in Seville, and proved to be very useful. As Roest told reporters: ‘it was heart-warming to see professor Hazekamp holding the replica in his hand and studying it carefully, quickly realizing how he would perform the surgery.’

The surgery itself took place in late October 2014, and the now six-month old Jasmine is doing well. Prof. Hazekamp was eventually able to create a two-ventricle heart and moved the aorta to the left ventricle, where it’s supposed to be.

The surgery was so successful, that the LUMC hospital has already announced to be expanding the use of 3D printing models in complex surgeries. Over the coming year, they expect to apply it to ten to fifteen cases, for both children and adults. Reportedly, the necessary 3D printing technology has already been added the hospital’s arsenal. As Roest added, "We are already familiar with 3D printing models for inter alia, oral and maxillofacial surgery. So in the near future we are going to make these heart models ourselves."


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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Stephan Zeidler wrote at 2/6/2015 10:49:27 AM:

Good job. It really proofs how 3d-printing can provide an additional benefit in the medical field.

Hans Fouche wrote at 2/4/2015 6:58:24 AM:

This is such a good application of 3d printing! Love it!

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