Dr Redmond P Burke with 3D heart
Doctor Redmond P. Burke, of Miami Children's Hospital’s Heart Program talking about the process of 3D scanning Adaenelie's heart.
Surgeons at Miami Children’s Hospital have saved a young girl’s life using a 3D-printed heart model which helped them visualise a complex operation.
Four-year-old, Adaenelie, was born with total anomalous pulmonary venous connection (TAPVC), a congenital heart disease. It meant she often struggled to breath, was lethargic and had a weakened immune system. She could barely get around in school and was losing weight rapidly. At four-years-old, Adaenelie was around half the normal weight of girls her age.
Even after two prior open-heart surgical operations, Adaenelie’s days were numbered.
In paediatric cardiology it is said that babies’ hearts are like snowflakes – no two are the same. Thus the imaging of the heart during scans is of paramount importance. CT scans and MRI scans have previously offered a clear 2D image of a patient’s heart, but now 3D printers are bringing these images to life. The 3D scans allow surgeons to hold hearts in their hands before they enter the operating room.
Doctors used Materialise’s Mimics Care Suite to print a 3D replica of Adaenelie’s heart based on her CT scans. This way, the surgeons gained a better understanding of the case before they planned the extremely difficult, unprecedented TAPVC surgery.
The veins coming from the lungs to the heart were obstructed. Adaenelie was not expected to reach adulthood. But the 3D printing changed that.
“This was printed out because she was thought to be inoperable and by having this type of model we were able to conceive of an operation that hadn't been done before, connecting the small veins from her lungs up to her heart,” said Doctor Redmond P. Burke, of Miami Children's Hospital’s Heart Programme. “That was done with parts from another person's heart who had died and donated their heart. Her operation was extremely successful.”
Dr. Burke was able to present the replica heart to the family, allowing him to properly explain to her parents what they intended to do and how it differed from her previous operations.
“It’s very nice to be able to show (the heart to) a mum who’s been through this – this would be her (daughter’s) third major open heart (surgery) – you start to lose hope and you start to wonder ‘what exactly are they going to do different this time?’” Dr. Burke added.
“The operation took about five hours. When we were done we measured the pressure in her right ventricle, which before the operation had been dangerously high, and the pressure popped up on the screen in the operating room and you heard everyone in the room say ‘yes!’ because the pressure, for the first time in her life, was normal. That means her life span is no longer going to be measured in weeks and months, but years and decades. So (her parents) have to start saving for college now.”
Since the operation, Adaenelie has been recovering well in hospital.