3D Printing

Two Irish Hospitals Take Cardiac Surgery to Heart with 3D Printing

The enormous advantages of having a 3D printed physical model of a patient’s insides before surgery have become clear for a few years now, with private companies launching a wide range of services to go from the DICOMM data of MRI’s and CT Scans to a physical 3D printed replica. In an effort to make this service available to surgeons in two Irish Hospitals, the GMedTech center at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) will be using its 3D printers to create exact replica’s of hearts for patients awaiting cardiac surgery.

Materialise heartprint 3d printing
Photo via Materialise.

GMedTech specializes in creating clinically relevant simulations of complex organs such as the heart. These are currently used both for educational purposes and to reduce the burden associated with later stage clinical investigations. They can also contribute to accelerating the development of next generation medical devices and training platforms.

As reported by the Galway Advertiser, GMedTech’s 3D printing capabilities, used to make various components of the surgery simulators, will now also be used to make heart models for surgeons at Galway’s University Hospital and Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Dublin.  The model will help doctors prepare for complex surgery on both adults suffering from heart disease and children suffering from heart defects.

The copies will mainly focus on the coronary arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. Medical professionals all over the world have been discovering the advantages that physical 3D models, such as the ones provided by Materialise’s Heart Print service, have over any virtual 3D model. I once had the opportunity to see a 3D printed heart model (see photo below) when visiting Skorpion Prototyping (another service bureau that offers 3D printing to hospitals), and I was amazed at how different the model was from what I had imagined a heart to look like, starting from its size (much larger than I had thought).

3d printed heart model

Being able to leverage on local 3D printers can also be an advantage for the Irish hospitals’ surgeons, especially in terms of time effectiveness, which, in the case of heart surgery, can really make the difference between success and failure.