May 24, 2016 | By Tess

Being a cardiac surgeon is an undeniably stressful job, as their procedures and operations can often determine the life or death of a patient. Especially going into a surgery having analyzed and planned around 2D scans or an X-ray of a patient’s anatomy, it can be difficult to properly understand what will be found once inside, especially in very complex cases. Now, however, 3D printing technologies have offered doctors and surgeons a more in depth and accurate way of planning for surgeries, as they are able to 3D print replicas of anatomical parts custom to the patient. In Hong Kong, for instance, a collaborative research team from The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and the University of Hong Kong (HKU) has introduced 3D printing technologies into complex cardiac procedures and has effectively enhanced both the procedural precision and safety of the operation.

The team, made up of researchers from the Division of Cardiology at CUHK and the Department of Mechanical Engineering from HKU, is the first in Hong Kong to successfully integrate 3D printing technologies into cardiac procedures. Essentially, the team has been able to create a soft silicone based model of a complex cardiac structure using 3D printing, which is itself modeled from a patient’s specific echocardiographic data.

The technique was first tested last year on a 78-year-old woman who was brought to the Prince of Wales Hospital for a Left atrial appendage (LAA) occlusion. The case was a particularly complex one, as the patient had a “double-lobed LAA that would be challenging for occluder implantation”. Using her echocardiographic data, the researchers were able to make a 3D model of her own complex cardiac structure and from that a 3D print of it. The 3D printed replica of the patient’s anatomy allowed the surgical team to accurately simulate procedures and to determine operation strategies for the upcoming surgery. With the patient-specific pre-surgical planning guide made possible by the 3D printed silicone model, the surgeons were then able to implant the LAA closure device with almost perfect precision, anticipating every step along the way. Now, a year later, the patient who underwent the innovative procedure is reportedly in good condition.

Since the success of the first procedure using the 3D printed model as a surgical guide, two more surgeries have been completed for LAA occlusion. The innovative procedure, which consists of ultrasound scanning, modeling, and 3D printing the anatomical model takes only two days to complete. The 3D printed models have also helped the surgical teams to determine what size of occluder needs to be implanted before hand, which cuts back on the overall surgical time. The size of occluder, which is the device implanted to cover a hole in the heart to help stop blood clots and reduce the risk of a stroke, is a crucial part of having a successful surgery.

Additionally, the 3D printed patient-specific anatomical models can be used by the doctors to both ensure and make patients understand the procedures they are about to undergo, as well as to train new cardiologists with a high level of precision. As Dr. Alex Lee Pui-wai, Assistant Professor at the Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine and Therapeutics at CUHK explains, “3D patient-specific models using materials that mechanically mimic soft cardiac tissues can enhance preoperative planning and appreciation of cardiac morphology by the doctors. This also helps patients better understand the operation procedures. The technology can be applied to other complex cardiac procedures and be used to train cardiologists as well.”

Dr. Kwok Ka-wai, Assistant Professor from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at HKU, said the following about the integration of 3D printing in cardiac procedures, “Advances in geometric modelling and 3D printing could add the cardiologist’s confidence in performing safer, more accurate and effective cardiovascular intervention procedures.” Dr. Alex Lee added that the joint team from CUHK and HKU plans to continue exploring the potential applications of 3D printing technologies within the field of cardiology.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


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