A 3-D Printer Saved A 4-Year-Old’s Heart And Life

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  • 6 years ago
  • Posted: October 12, 2015 at 10:44 am

Every kid around the world goes through an active childhood. In Kenya, kids make kites and construct houses in the bush to play ‘adult’. Well, overseas things are different. Kids are taken to day care, dance classes and the bright ones open accounts on social media. However, Mia Gonzalez’s life turned out to be different. She was unable to do all the childish under dealings. She spent over 3 years in slaved in a world of sickness. Constant colds and pneumonia killed her daily routine.

Mia’s parents took her to a number of doctors who were unable to treat her. She had a malformation in her aorta, the vessel that pumps blood from the heart. The 4 year old had to undergo an operation to close off the part of her aorta that was putting pressure on her windpipe and making it hard to breathe, swallow and get rid of phlegm when she got a cold.

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“We freaked out to go from thinking she had asthma to being told she needed to have open heart surgery,” Mia’s mom said. Fortunately, a 3-D Printer saved a 4-Year-Old’s heart.

No traditional medical procedure could complete the operation because of its complexity. The hospital got a 3-D printer that makes exact replicas of organs that doctors can use to plan surgery, and even do practice operations. The printer uses images from patients’ MRI or CT scan images as a template and lays down layers of rubber or plastic.

CNN reports Dr. Redmond Burke, director of pediatric cardiovascular surgery at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, meditated on the model of Mia’s heart for a couple of weeks. He showed it to colleagues for their input and even carried it around in his gym bag for quick reference.

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“Without the model, I would have been less certain about operating on Mia and that would have led me naturally to make a larger incision that could possibly cause more pain and a longer recovery time,” Burke said. “Using the model, there was no doubt, and surgeons hate doubt,” he added.

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The printer helped the surgeons do their work effectively. Burke and his colleagues have created models for about 25 young patients with congenital heart defects.

Currently, Mia feels brand new and the surgery done on her is ancient history.

Although 3-D printers have been used clinically for the last 20 or 25 years to make prototypes for surgical tools and other uses, they only started churning out simulated organs in the last few years, Rader said.

In addition, the models can be used to train medical students and explain complicated procedures. The printers could be used to produce actual organs that can be transplanted into patients; just replace the rubber and plastic printer ink with human cells.

“We are going to see massive advances in the next five to 10 years of how to take the technology to this point,” Rader said.

Hospitals are currently investing in technology. The printer and software usually cost in the range of $100,000, which is less than a CT scan or MRI setup, Rader said. The surgeons have a story to tell since a 3-D printer saved a 4-Year-Old’s Heart.

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