Nov.20, 2014

3D printed replicas of the human heart may help surgeons treat patients born with complicated heart disorders, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2014.

Most heart surgeons use 2D images taken by X-ray, ultrasound and MRI for surgical planning. However, these images may not reveal complex structural complications in the heart's chambers that occur when heart disease is present at birth (congenital heart defects), such as holes in one of the chambers, or misrouted arteries and vessels.

One slice of the 100-150 slice MRI image use to generate plaster composite heart model. Image credit: Kyle Formella, Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center

Using detailed MRIs as a guide, doctors now can design and build an accurate and detailed 3D model of the heart from various materials, such as plaster or ceramic, to reveal even the most complicated structural abnormalities.

In the past the surgeon sees the heart is when the chest is open. And surgeons had to stop the heart during the surgery and look inside to decide what to do. "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.

3D printed plaster composite heart focusing on the intracardiac details to aid surgical planning. Image credit: Kyle Formella, Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center

The 3D printed hearts helped the surgeon rethink his strategy and make better surgical decisions. "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." said Dr. Bramlet. "What once was used to build trucks, we're using now to build models of hearts."

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.

Matthew Bramlet, M.D. Assistant professor of pediatric cardiology, Director of the Congenital Heart Disease MRI Program; University of Illinois College of Medicine

"You could see that if you make this compromise here, you could fix this problem, and go from a single-ventricle to a two-ventricle repair," Bramlet said. "That is the difference, potentially, between a life expectancy of two to three decades, to four, five or six decades."

But this was still a small study and 3D printing is still an emerging technology that is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Researchers said they would need more cases to know whether the 3D printed heart replicas improve surgical outcomes. Nevertheless, the test results suggest that 3D printed hearts replicas have improved the surgeon's understanding of the heart anatomy prior to the surgery.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications


Maybe you also like:


Carmel Monti - Salesmen for Advanced Rp - Reseller of Stratasys 3 D printers wrote at 12/11/2014 6:35:53 PM:

The article of pediatric hearts is a very good one, however, I would like to add that the FDA has nothing to do with the making of pre surgical heart models. These models are for diagnostic purposes or pre surgical help. They are not intended on being placed in the human body. This may change with stem cell research and other future developments but is not the purpose of the current technology.

Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive