Heartwarming Story

How a 3D Printed Heart Saved 5 Year Old Mia’s Life

3D Printed Heart

A 3D printed heart that was a precise replica of Mia Gonzalez’s own heart let surgeons prepare to operate before the first incision was made.

5-year-old Mia Gonzalez urgently needed surgery to repair a congenital heart defect called a double aortic arch.

For years she was misdiagnosed as asthmatic, because her defect restricted her airflow and labored her breathing.

It wasn’t until the cardiac MRI team at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, Miami, discovered that Mia had a heart defect that they knew how to help her.

Usually the corrective surgery which needed to be performed is done by entering the left side of the patient’s chest.

But in Mia’s case, MRI imaging told Dr. Redmond Burke and his team that the operation could only be done by entering the right side — potentially causing problems.

The solution was a 3D printed model of her heart, which was used to help the surgeons fully prepare for this intricate operation.

The story is related on the Stratasys corporate blog, where Dr. Burke says:

“By making a 3D model of her very complex aortic arch vessels, we were able to further visualize which part of her arch should be divided to achieve the best physiological result. It’s very powerful when you show a family ‘this is your baby’s heart and this is how I’m going to repair it.’”

How a 3D Printed Heart Works

Just two months before Gonzalez’s surgery, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital installed its own 3D printer, a Stratasys Objet Eden260VS.

It is used for paediatric 3d printed heart models, after MRI and CT scans — using a program similar to computer-aided design software — is used to transform the scans into printable, 3D image formats.

The heart is then printed out of either a flexible, opaque material or a rigid, transparent material.

Printing in flexible materials allows surgeons to try out different techniques whereas printing using rigid, clear materials gives surgeons a view of the internal structure of complex organs.

With the 3D printed heart, Dr.Burke was able to show his surgery team exactly what needed to be done during the procedure before making the first incision.

After two hours, Mia was out of surgery and on her way to recovery. According to Dr. Burke she is now doing well.

To date, the surgeons have used the printer for about 20 patients.

What do you think of the technology? Would you like a 3D printed version of your organs?