Jul 10, 2017 | By Tess

3D printing has helped to save the lives of at least seven infants in the UAE. According to a local news source, the technology has been used by UAE doctors to prepare for congenital heart disease surgery on newborns.

Congenital heart disease, a heart disease that one is born with, affects one of every 160 babies delivered in a UAE hospital. This means that about 500 babies are born with a congenital heart defect every year in the country. If left untreated, these cases can prove fatal.

“Congenital heart disease is more prevalent in the country than other parts of the world,” commented Dr. Laszlo Kiraly, a consultant pediatric cardiac surgeon and the head of the department at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC). “Around one per cent of all newborns suffer from this disease.”

Of those born with congenital heart diseases, nearly 75% require heart surgery to survive, and 66% of those that require surgery need it within the first six months of their lives. Additionally, because of the complex nature of many congenital heart defects, patients often require multiple surgeries.

3D printing and other digital technologies such as virtual reality have enabled doctors in the UAE to better prepare for heart surgery on newborns. That is, by 3D printing accurate models of a patient’s heart, surgeons can visualize and tactilely explore the specific anatomy of the patient. The 3D models can also be used in virtual applications to experiment with various operation techniques.

In the last couple of weeks, 3D printing and modeling has helped save the lives of two babies born with congenital heart disease in Abu Dhabi. The successful surgeries, which were planned using 3D printed heart models, consisted of closing up holes in the babies’ hearts and rotating vessels for better alignment.

Dr. Kiraly describes one particularly complex case, in which a three-year-old girl required a third heart surgery. “The patient was in very bad shape,” he explained. “The multidisciplinary’s option was to not go for surgery because it was far too risky. When we created the 3D model, we saw something else, something we would not have been able to find before.”

Basically, the 3D model allowed the medical team to find an obstruction that existed in the child’s heart, which made it possible for them to operate carefully, knowing exactly where they had to go in. The surgery was successfully completed last week.

Another notable case involved a young girl who was born with a complex heart condition that made it extremely difficult—even impossible—to operate on. The patient’s heart was located on the right side of her chest, and she was lacking a connection between her lungs and her lower body.

Dr. Kiraly explained: “We came up with a solution on how to drive the connection inside the heart without being compressed. This is something we couldn’t have done without the model.”

3D printing, which was first used in the UAE for medical applications in 2015, is changing how congenital heart diseases are treated, and Dr. Kiraly believes it will continue to advance. "In the future, we will use bio-scaffolds and biodegradable materials, which means we can do more complex surgeries with less risk,” he said.

The UAE is one of a number of countries seeking to explore and advance 3D printing technologies in the medical field.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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