First hybrid 3D printed heart created

Chuck Bednar for – @BednarChuck

A team of congenital heart experts from Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Michigan has for the first time successfully combined multiple imaging techniques to create a more detailed, more accurate prototype 3D printed model of a human heart.

The researchers combined computed tomography (CT) and three-dimensional transesophageal echocardiography (3DTEE) to image and print the heart. Using CT improved their ability to see the outer anatomy of the heart, while 3DTEE gave them a better look at the internal valves. The resulting prototype could improve the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease.

According to Discovery News, the CT and 3DTEE scans were combined into a single file using software from the Belgium-based firm Materialise, and the images were used to 3D print a heart. 3D printing the heart gives doctors a better look at the organ, making it easier for them to diagnose problems and determine if the heart can be better treated using surgery or transcatheter.

Combining the strengths of different methods

While the researchers explained in a statement that 3D printing models of patients’ hearts has become more commonplace in recent years, this marks the first time that these two technologies have been successfully combined to print a hybrid 3D model of a patient’s heart. In addition, the technology could ultimately be combined with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

“Hybrid 3D printing integrates the best aspects of two or more imaging modalities, which can potentially enhance diagnosis, as well as interventional and surgical planning,” explained lead author and cardiac sonographer Jordan Gosnell. “Previous methods of 3D printing utilize only one imaging modality, which may not be as accurate as merging two or more datasets.”

Dr. Joseph Vettukattil, co-director of the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Congenital Heart Center and senior author of the study, explained that both imaging tools have their own strengths that can be combined to improve the overall additive manufacturing process.

CT, he explained, enhances visualization of the outside anatomy of the heart. MRI is better at measuring the interior of the organ, the chambers and muscle tissue, while 3DTEE provides the best visualization of valve anatomy. Combining all three, Dr. Vettukattil said, could be a “huge leap for individualized medicine in cardiology and congenital heart disease.” Further work is needed to evaluate the surgical efficacy of these hybrid 3D models.


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