As I’ve learned covering 3D printing in the medical sector, performing heart surgery becomes even more difficult when it involves the life of an infant. Not only are there a lack of physical models dedicated to such surgeries, but even the chest cavity of such a small patient itself is extremely difficult to navigate. 3D printing, then, has often been proposed as an ideal tool for preparing surgeons venturing into such delicate procedures. In India, a 3D printed heart model has been used to perform such an operation for what Sahas Softech LLP claims is the first time.
11-month-old Lavesh Navedkar was revealed to have a complex congenital DORV (Double Outlet Right Ventricle) heart defect when he was brought into doctors for his slow weight gain. The doctors considered two solutions, both involving heart surgery, and opted for that which had greater risk, but would provide a more ideal treatment for Lavesh. This solution would involve forming a tunnel for draining blood from the defect to the aorta, restoring normal blood flow to the infant’s heart. To create the best route, based on how it would work in the short and long term, the doctors realized that 3D printing would provide the ideal pre-surgical planning tool. And, so, the team, consisting of pediatric cardiac radiologist Dr. Alpa Bharati, pediatric cardiologist Dr. Swati Garekar, and Dean of Sion Hospital Dr. Sulaiman Merchant, turned to Sahas Softech LLP, a 3D printing and engineering provider in Mumbai. Fortunately for Lavesh and the medical team, Sahas Softech has a complete medical division devoted to 3D printing patient-specific implants and medical devices.
Sahas Softech was able to convert Lavesh’s MRI scan into a CAD model, with which they were able to design an exact replica of his heart in just two days. They were then able to 3D print the model in two cross sections with two different views necessary for the surgery. All of this was performed in just two days and at no charge. Dr. Bharati said of the prints, “3D heart models showed fine details of the structures within the heart and helped the surgeons and physicians assess the possibility of surgery and if there were any chance of likely complications as a result of surgery.”
With the models, Dr. Agarwal was able to perform the surgery on young Lavesh on May 29th at Fortis Hospital, deeming the operation a complete success. He is now stably recovering, having already been discharged and sent home. Dr. Agarwal says, “In the absence of the heart model, it would have been difficult to confidently opt for complete repair of the heart using an intra-cardiac tunnel or baffle.”
Rather than open the infant’s chest cavity to find that the tunnel was impossible to create, the team was able to see that such a procedure could be performed and, ultimately, used to save Lavesh’s life. And, now, Sahas Softech is in the process of working with doctors to assess five more cases with DORV defects at no cost. Dr. Garekar believes that 3D printing could likely be used with other conditions, too, saying, “We are confident that such heart models will help not only DORV patients but possibly patients with other complex heart defects as well.”