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A Rubik’s cube look-alike – 3D Heart replica – could help surgeons save children’s lives

Heather Suhr
A Rubik’s cube look-alike – 3D Heart replica – could help surgeons save children’s lives
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According to new research, scientists are able to develop a replica of a human heart by using 3D printing technology and this could potentially save many babies’ lives. Surgeons are able to precisely plan where to cut tissue, and reroute piping and patch holes in congenial heart defects due to the heart replicas being exactly matched to every bit of detail of a baby’s heart. (1)

Expected to extend a baby’s lifespan

These findings were shared by scientist at the American Heart Association meeting in Chicago this past November and holds promising results. Scientists have attempted several different heart replicas in the past, however, the newest Swiss cheese-like heart replica works the best thus far. (1)

In fact, “From the first two cases straight out of the gate, we’ve had this dramatic impact,” said study co-author Dr. Matthew Bramlet, a pediatric cardiologist at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Illinois, both in Peoria. (1)

Congenial heart defects (CHD) affects approximately 1% of births per year in the United States and can range from mild to serious. In the babies’ first year of life, approximately 25% of them undergo surgeries and other procedures. (2) With the latest results, the 3D printing heart could help surgeons to understand the child’s CHD before any surgeries are done. (1)

Two real life cases

The first case comes from a 4-year-old girl in South Florida, Adanelie Gonzalez. She suffers from a congenital heart condition called total anomalous pulmonary venous connection (TAPVC), which means the veins in Gonzalez’s heart are being pumped into the wrong part of the heart causing difficulty in breathing, weakened immune system, and lack of energy. (3)

Gonzalez went through several surgeries to fix some things temporarily, but the doctors needed to come up with an urgent solution, otherwise she could die within the next few weeks. Dr. Redmond Burke at Miami’s Children Hospital resorted to the 3D-printed model, studied it for a couple days, and was able to conduct surgery successfully. Today, Gonzalez’s heart is flowing normally and going through recovery. (3,4)

The second most recent case comes from a 2-year-old girl in London, Mina Khan. She was born with a hole in the wall between the two chambers of her heart, a condition that has kept her feeling exhausted, and prevented her from maintaining a healthy weight or growing hair. (5)

Khan’s heart deformity was so severe that the doctors at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London thought it was unlikely the heart could be repaired. However, they attempted the exact 3D replica of her heart using the MRI and computerized tomography scans. The surgeons studied the model and were able to design a patch, practice stitching the hole in place, and finally perform real life surgery with success. (5)

Changing lives, one child at a time

These two above cases aren’t the only ones that had success. There have been several others, including a 2-week-old baby in New York. (5) Though there have been promising successes, more studies and clinical trials at multiple sites will be needed in order to determine if the heart replicas improve surgical outcomes. (1)

Technology can be such an amazing thing when it comes to life and death. This heart replica may be one huge step further in the medical advancements to help save children’s lives and perhaps prolong their years. What do you think about this medical advancement?

Sources for this article include:
(1) www.foxnews.com
(2) www.cdc.gov
(3) www.yahoo.com
(4) healthymagazine.com
(5) gigaom.com

Image source: www.foxnews.com

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