Shaping Young Hearts
At Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, director of pediatric cardiovascular surgery Redmond Burke dedicates his intellect and his hands to repairing tiny hearts. Burke performs challenging operations, often for children who have nowhere else to turn. In the complex yet highly tactile task of rebuilding the vital organ, he has a new ally: 3D printing.
For patients with rare defects, Burke must plan procedures based on each child’s condition and anatomy. In the case of Mia Gonzalez, that meant untangling a double aortic arch, a structural defect in which a complete vascular ring wraps around the trachea or esophagus, restricting airflow and causing coughing and frequent respiratory infections. Before coming to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, Mia spent the first four years of her life in and out of hospitals, misdiagnosed with asthma and struggling to breathe and swallow.
Using Stratasys solutions, the hospital created an anatomically precise 3D model of Mia’s heart, directly from her CT scan. With the model, Burke and his team were able to figure out which part of her arch should be divided to achieve the best physiological result. The clearer plan that resulted from the model reduced operating-room time by two hours, according to the hospital – significant in terms of risk to the patient as well as cost.
“We used the most sophisticated imaging systems, echocardiography and CT angiography, to study Mia’s heart”, Burke said. “But for a surgeon, there was something more compelling about holding an exact replica of her heart in my hands. My team could visualize the operation before we started. We knew the safest approach, and confidently made a smaller incision. I’ve seen surgeons get lost doing rare operations like Mia’s. The 3D model allowed me to proceed through Mia’s operation with confidence because I knew her unique anatomy perfectly”.
He also used it to prepare Mia’s family for the surgery. He showed it to them, and said: “This is what’s choking your baby. This is your baby’s heart, and this is how I’m going to repair it”. “From having four and a half years of not knowing, to all of the … .
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