News / Health

3D Printers Help Heart Surgeons

3D Printers Help Heart Surgeonsi
X
July 30, 2013 7:38 PM
3D printers are slowly entering everyday life and they are increasingly being used in medicine. Doctors at Washington's Children's National Medical Center say the life-size tri-dimensional prints of their patients' hearts helps them in planning and executing surgeries. VOA's George Putic has more.
George Putic
3D printers are slowly entering everyday life and they are increasingly being used in medicine. Doctors at Washington's Children's National Medical Center say the life-size tri-dimensional prints of their patients' hearts helps them in planning and executing surgeries.

Magnetic resonance imaging, computer tomography and ultrasound already give pretty good images of patients' internal organs, but doctors at the Children's National Medical Center say nothing beats holding a life-size model of a heart in your hand prior to the surgery. They can study it, plan the procedure and even practice the access to the damaged area.

Pediatric cardiologist Laura Olivieri says many of their young patients were born with hearts that did not form as they should have, but surgeons can correct that.

"Seeing the heart defect in three dimensions can really help the interventionist or the surgeon plan the best procedure," she said.

The hospital acquired the $250,000 printer about 18 months ago and the team is still expanding and finding new areas to print.

The procedure always starts with taking a set of three-dimensional images with magnetic resonance imager, computer tomography scanner and ultrasound machine. Highly trained pediatric cardiologists manipulate those images and separate the organ from the noise in the picture. In order to save time in printing they sometimes also cut away parts of the image irrelevant to the planned procedure.

"It takes us now about an average I would say about two hours of manual work on the computer to manipulate the data in to generate the 3D model and the printer takes about, for a full size heart like this, it takes about 12 hours," said mechanical engineer Alex Krieger, the principal investigator for pediatric surgical innovation at the Children's National Medical Center. "A smaller heart maybe five, six hours."

Krieger says in one instance his team printed a model of the heart of a patient with stenosis, or narrowing of the passage between two heart chambers. The interventional cardiologist wanted to see exactly what kind of stent he should use, the size and length of it, and also the access path.

"So this model allowed him to really look at that in depth and plan, and prepare for the procedure better," he said.

The machine prints by spraying layers of plastic, one on top of the other, while the ultraviolet light immediately cures it before the next layer is sprayed. Krieger says the printer can be loaded with two different materials. Precise control of their ratio allows the printed model to feel very natural, with both hard and soft tissues.

Cardiologist Olivieri says doctors still have to learn a lot about the new procedure.

"It's a brand new field. These have only been possible for a wery little amount of time and I don't think we even know the full capability of what we're going to be... what they're going to be used for," she said. "We're kind of talking about a technology that went going from feasible to kind of usable and we're right in that middle ground right now."

There is also hope that someday hospitals will be able to print even replacement parts for damaged organs.

"There's eventually some organ printing, you know, that's the ultimate goal, but I think there are a few steps between that we will reach in the next few years, on the way to full organ printing that I'm very excited about," said Krieger.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid