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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs