London: New 3D-printed heart technology can reduce the number of heart surgeries in children with congenital heart disease, say researchers.
Children with congenital heart disease often need up to four open heart surgeries at different times of life.
"The 3D-printed copy of the heart could reduce this to one or two because doctors can choose and practice the best interventional approach and device beforehand. This will avoid children spending months in intensive care," explained Dr Peter Verschueren.
He showed 3D-printed models of the heart including models used to plan real cases in patients at "EuroEcho-Imaging 2014," the annual meeting of the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging (EACVI) in Vienna, Austria.
3D-printing uses a machine to print objects layer by layer.
Instead of ink, the printer uses plastics, metals and other materials.
The 3D models are used to plan surgeries in children with congenital heart diseases such as double outlet right ventricle or Tetralogy of Fallot. Dr Verschueren noted:
"Until recently, doctors would look at an image and then try to visualise the heart in 3D. Now they can use a 3D copy of an individual patient's heart to plan the procedure in detail before they go into the operating theatre," he informed.
This is still a relatively new technology but there is increasing interest in using 3D-printed models to plan heart valve interventions in adults.
According to professor Patrizio Lancellotti, president of EACVI, 3D imaging is a main theme of "EuroEcho-Imaging" this year and 3D printing of the heart is particularly exciting.
"It allows us to make a perfect model of a patient's anatomy and decide the optimal device and procedure in advance," he concluded.