3D- Printed Hearts (by: Katrina Xingyi Luo)

In November 19, researcher in the American Heart Association presented a replicas of the human heart that are made on 3D printers. This could help save babies’ lives, the researcher suggested.


Details of replicas of heart. Photo credit: Kyle Formella/Jume Trading Simulation & Education Center)

Heart surgery is always very complex, specially when the patient is baby. First of all, size of the heart is very tiny, and secondly, new-born babies are very fragile, it is not easy to move them around and examine from different angles. Therefore, it is very hard to see the detail even with MRI scan. hence, it is very hard for the surgeon to make decisions on where to start with. But fortunately, this new found can help the surgeons to plan advance and improves the understanding of defects before they go into the operating room, the researcher said.

In the past, what doctor would do when these fragile babies are born with certain congenital heart defect is – they would typically do a very quick surgery that improves blood flow just enough for them to grow. Once the littles ones have doubled in size (usually when are 6 to 9 months old), surgeons often perform more complicated repair surgery, Bramlet, one of the researcher said. But these surgeries usually contains risk and unnecessary distraction of heart tissue and reroute blood flow that can dramatically reduce the heart to two functional chambers. But with the 3D-printed replicas of heart, surgery can make clear surgical decision and fine more appropriate way to perform the surgery.

“The team was able to find a better work-around and spare all four of the heart’s chambers, which increased the baby’s life expectancy from 20 to 30 years to near- normal.” Bramlet said.

Although this new 3D-printing is certainly a looking-forward technique in medical field, but it is not sure that it will be broadly use yet. Because the total number of hearts they’ve studies so far is small, so it is still too soon to know whether the heart replicas improves surgical outcomes. The researcher states that because these complicated heart defects are rare, researchers would need to set up a clinical trial at multiple sites to get enough cases.

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