Mina Khan was born with a broken heart. Specifically, she had a large hole between her ventricles. This defect prevented the normal circulation of blood through her heart chambers and lungs, leaving the little girl constantly exhausted. Mina could not put on weight, and her hair would not grow. She needed a miracle, and the challenge to save her life was accepted by an innovative team of surgeons at St. Thomas Hospital in London, and a 3D printer.
The operating team, led by Professor David Anderson, used both MRI and CT scans to develop a 3D model of Mina’s tiny heart. The model was extremely accurate, representing the heart and its defect well enough to create a custom GORE-TEX® patch, and help the surgeons understand how it would be stitched into place.
Professor Anderson told the Sunday Times that the ‘very complex’ hole in Mina’s heart posed a ‘huge intellectual challenge’. The printed heart showed Mina’s ‘as it looked when the heart was pumping.’ This incredible accuracy meant Professor Anderson and team ‘could go into the operation with a much better idea of what we would find.’
Pediatric heart surgery is a challenge for even the most skilled surgeons, but the 3D model helped make Mina’s surgery a success. “She is eating, has stopped being sick and is growing at last,” Mina’s mother, Natasha Buckley, told Sunday Times science editor Jonathan Leake. “Mina is like a normal little girl now.”
To hear more from Mina and her mother, watch them on the BBC.