3D printing is becoming more of a practical-use item and less of science fiction.
Case in point: people can now print furniture, toys, shoes and even intricate sugar cubes. But 3D printing is also proving itself as another tool for doctors to use to better help patients. The best example of this is the use of a 3D printed heart that has saved the life of a 14-month-old child. Roland Lian Cung Bawi, a child from Owensboro, Kentucky, was born with four congenital heart defects.
The University of Louisville states that the idea for using a 3D printed heart came from the radiology director of Kosair Chldren’s Hospital, Philip Dydynski. After viewing the Rapid Prototyping Center of J.B. Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville, he was made aware of the capabilities 3D printing could have. Thanks to the inspiring trip, he asked the operations manager of the center, Tim Gornet, if constructing a model of the child’s heart via CT scan images could be possible. Gornet gave the okay, and the center created a model that was 1.5 times bigger than the original, allowing for the surgery planning and prep.
The heart, according to Gornet, cost $600. But it should go without saying that the heart was well worth it. Cardiothoracic surgeon Erle Austin III was able to develop a surgical plan with the University of Louisville physicians. The child underwent surgery February 10 and when he went back for monitoring February 21, it showed that he was improving nicely. Austin said the model was a “game changer” in planning surgery for complex congenital heart defects.
“Knowing we can make somebody’s life better is exciting,” he said. It’s great that the technology is proving itself to not just be another fad, but something that could be actually beneficial for many different disciplines and practices.
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Image: University of Louisville