Feb 6, 2017 | By Benedict

Not-for-profit healthcare corporation OSF HealthCare has teamed up with construction giant and fellow Peoria resident Caterpillar to build a 3D printed model of a sick patient’s heart. The 3D model will be added to the Jump 3D Heart Library, created to assist medical research on heart conditions.

Multi-material 3D printing enabled OSF and Caterpillar to 3D print a semi-flexible heart model (right) as opposed to a rigid one (left)

When 45-year-old Farmer City resident Ty Dozier was told he would require open-heart surgery for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a congenital heart condition that thickened his left ventricle and prevented blood flow, he surely didn’t expect iconic bulldozer-building construction company Caterpillar to play an important role in his treatment. But when OSF HealthCare decided that a 3D printed heart model should be added to the surgical blueprints, its medical staff sought additive assistance from those close at hand.

And close at hand Caterpillar is—for the time being. Like OSF HealthCare, the yellow-and-black construction equipment company is headquartered in Peoria, Illinois, close to its Mossville 3D Printing & Innovation Accelerator that opened last year. Caterpillar recently announced that it would be moving much of its staff and operations to nearby Chicago, but for now the company performs the bulk of its work in Peoria, the oldest European settlement in Illinois.

While OSF did not need Caterpillar’s advice on mining equipment or industrial gas turbines, it did need something else in the construction company’s portfolio: a high-end multi-material 3D printer. Dozier required surgery on his defective heart to help him breathe properly. “I was losing my breath easily, coughing a lot,” the patient said. But to perform the complex surgery, which involved slicing out a portion of overgrown muscle in Dozier’s heart, surgical staff wanted an accurate 3D printed model of the patient’s defective organ. This, they said, would give them a better idea of how to approach the procedure.

3D printing the hearts at Caterpillar's Mossville 3D printing center

3D printed surgical models have been used for several years now, and are becoming more and more frequently used. However, despite the growth of medical 3D printing, there are still relatively few guidelines, precedents, and best practices for actually making models such as the one prescribed for Dozier's case. OSF wants to change all that by creating a 3D Heart Library that will act as a repository for cases like Dozier’s. The library will allow medical professionals to access and peer review 3D printable models submitted by clinicians, allowing the entire medical community to pitch in and improve the practice of 3D printing surgical models.

“There are many physicians utilizing 3D modeling for the treatment of congenital heart disease, but there aren't any best practices for utilizing the technology," said Dr. Matthew Bramlet, director of the Jump Advanced Imaging and Modeling Program. "Establishing a peer-review process will drive standardization and increase the quality of 3D digital models around the world.”

But while Jump is able to 3D print models for most heart surgery cases using its own 3D printing equipment, cases like Dozier’s present a different challenge: the patient’s condition caused his heart to swell so much that it was impossible to model on a one-to-one scale using the relatively small Jump 3D printers. Moreover, these Jump 3D printers can only print rigid models, which are not ideal for demonstrating which sections of the model represent which sections of the heart.

Dr. Mark Plunkett shows the 3D printed heart to patient Ty Dozier

Fortunately, OSF and Jump have a neighbor with bigger and better 3D printing equipment than anyone else in town. Using a 3D printer at Caterpillar’s Technical Center in Mossville, OSF was able to create several multicolor, multi-material 3D printed models of Dozier’s heart. “We can use a flexible material that simulates what the heart would be,” said Eric Halla, an engineer in Caterpillar's Additive Manufacturing Marketing and Digital Division. “It gives us a lot of flexibility.” (We know that Caterpillar uses Objet 260 3D printers from Stratasys, though it is not known if this was the machine was used to print Dozier’s heart model.)

Two 3D printed models were made of Dozier’s heart. One was 3D printed with colored arteries, which helped the surgeons identify abnormalities in them. The second was 3D printed in a flexible material. Once the multi-material 3D printed heart models had been fabricated at the Caterpillar 3D printing facility, Dr. Mark Plunkett, the congenital cardiac surgeon who performed Dozier's operation, was able to carefully study the models, which were based on data obtained from a CT scan. Because of the difficulty of the procedure, the 3D printed surgical aids massively helped Plunkett with his preparations. He could even practice incisions on the flexible second model. “It's a bit of a tricky operation,” he said. “Ideally, you want to do a single incision and then cut.”

The operation was successful, and Dozier can now breathe with much more freedom. “I feel like an elephant has been lifted off my chest,” the patient said. Additionally, the case has now been submitted to the 3D Heart Library, where other clinicians can learn from OSF and Caterpillar’s success.

Caterpillar is best known for making construction equipment

Excitingly, those behind the Jump heart library believe that there is much more progress to be made in the field of 3D printed heart models, and that this is just the beginning. “This is as exact as we can get today, but there's still room for improvement,” Bramlet said. “The first step is replicating exact anatomy.”

Images: Journal Star OSF



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Ken wrote at 2/6/2017 7:20:56 PM:

How did they convert the data from the CT scan to a 3d model?

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