Aug 4, 2015 | By Simon

Although it’s become quite apparent that 3D printing has revolutionized the way that some doctors approach surgery in this day and age, it’s easy to forget that there are still a lot of doctors and geographical regions that have either not been trained to use 3D printing or simply just don’t have convenient access to a 3D printer.  

In what is a first for India, an 11-month old infant by the name of Lavesh Navedkar recently received life-saving surgery that was made possible thanks to a 3D printed heart that his surgeons used to better understand his life-threatening condition.  

Navedkar was initially admitted to a pediatric hospital after suffering slow weight gain since birth.  Once at the hospital, he was evaluated by doctors and his echocardiogram revealed a complex cyanotic congenital heart defect called DORV (Double Outlet Right Ventricle) with a large remote VSD (Ventricular Septal Defect) and 2 adequate sized ventricles.

Although the medical team knew that Navedkar would need heart surgery, they were split between giving him a high-risk surgery that could fully-repair the problem or a low-risk surgery that would be a temporary solution.  

Ideally, the surgeons would perform a complete repair procedure that consisted of a surgeon creating a tunnel within the heart that was able to link the hole or the ventricular septal defect to the aorta creating a path for the drainage of the left ventricular blood to the aorta as in normal hearts.  Because of the complexity of this surgical procedure, it’s already considered risky on a larger adult heart; performing the procedure on an infant’s heart only makes the procedure more difficult.   

In order to better understand Navedkar’s condition to better assess their decision to perform the higher risk surgery at his age, his medical team turned to 3D printing for assistance in planning the surgery with the goal of minimizing the risk as much as possible.   

Equipped with an MRI scan of Navedkar’s heart, the surgeons approached India’s Sahas Softech LLP to create an exact 3D replica of the infant’s heart in under 48 hours.  Additionally, the team needed cross sections of the heart printed within 24 hours for the surgeons to better understand the interior structure of the heart.  Impressively, the team of talented designers and engineers at Sahas Softech LLP were able to pull it off in a very quick amount of time.   


“3D heart models showed fine details of the structures within the heart and helped the surgeons and physicians assess the possibility of surgery and if there were any chance of likely complications as a result of surgery”, said Dr. Alpa Bharati, a member of the surgical team.

Because of the 3D printed heart model, the surgeons were successfully able to better understand Navedkar’s heart structure and devise a gameplan for executing the surgery, which was performed by Dr. Vijay Agarwal, a pediatric cardiac surgeon at Fortis Hospital in Mulund, India at the end of May.  Thankfully, the surgery was deemed a success and Navedkar has since been discharged home to his parents after having successfully passed testing.  

“In the absence of the heart model, it would have been difficult to confidently opt for complete repair of the heart using an intra-cardiac tunnel or baffle,” added Dr. Agarwal.

Without the model, the team would have had to perform a much more risky procedure that involved keeping the heart open and exposed for a length of time.  With the 3D printed models and cross sections, they were better able to perform the surgery without the need to open up the young infant’s heart.    

“We are confident that such heart models will help not only DORV patients but possibly patients with other complex heart defects as well”, added Dr. Swati Garekar, a member of the surgical team.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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