Hearts printed in 3D for planning complex operations.
Specialists at the Virgen del Rocío Hospital in Seville print 3D replicas of hearts with severe congenital cardiopathies in order to prepare surgical interventions with greater accuracy.
From the screen to your hands
The arrival of flexible filaments
The turning point arrived in 2013 when they started to work with a Witbox printer. This constituted a “significant leap in quality” as it allowed them to print with flexible filaments for the first time. “Thanks to this we started to work with new specialities such as paediatric cardiology, which is where the biggest impact is being seen” he adds.“Preparatory work is of vital importance to the surgeon given that access to the heart during cardiac surgery is not easy”, explains Gorka.
Cardiovascular surgeons now have the chance to touch the flexible heart replicas, “they explore and analyse how the internal cavities of the organ are formed. I've even seen them inserting fingers into the models to feel the shape of the cavities, which is something they couldn't do with the rigid models”, says the researcher.
A unique model for each heart
They have since created and distributed models of hearts to several international and Spanish hospitals. The flexibility of the models provides surgeons with more potential when preparing operations and exploring anatomy. It should be noted that surgery on this type of cardiopathy is extremely complicated given the anatomical variability between organs, even within the same type of malformation. “This is why 3D printing is so useful, it provides exact, customised solutions for each patient”, adds Gorka.
This is why 3D printing is so useful, it provides exact, customised solutions for each patient
Since the start of the 'Personalised surgical planning of complex congenital cardiopathies using personalised 3D biomodels' research project, professionals have performed 40 surgeries on children with severe congenital cardiopathies in more than 10 hospitals worldwide. So far, the result of surgical planning based on these printed biomodels of organs is, according to Gorka, “improved surgical accuracy, reduced surgery time and a higher intervention success rate”.
The successful experience has led them to share their achievements with the scientific community: they have published more than 10 articles in national and international scientific magazines. Where to next? The pursuit of synergies between engineers, surgeons and other specialists with regard to 3D printing, in order to continue increasing operation success rates.