3D Systems, one of the largest 3D printing companies announced that it has partnered with OpHeart – a non-profit organisation which works towards ensuring that children born with life-threatening heart defects receive the best care. As a part of the partnership, 3D Systems provides pediatric heart surgeons with 3D printed tools that help them to better prepare and rehearse complex surgeries.
As per the American Academy of Pediatrics, CHD affects one percent of all newborns thereby making it one of the most common birth defects. As many as tens of thousands of children require surgery each year in the U.S. in order to survive. In Congenital Heart Defect, newborns have a problem in structure of the heart and may experience symptoms such as rapid breathing, fatigue, and poor blood circulation.
By providing accurate, detailed anatomical models of patients with Congenital Heart Disease to surgeons, 3D Systems has leveraged its two decades of anatomical modeling expertise and end-to-end medical workflow to support OpHeart’s mission over the past four years.
These models have facilitated a significant breakthrough in CHD surgery, providing vital aid to surgeons in their preparations for this complex, delicate surgical procedure. Additionally, the models are used by medical teams to explain the surgery to patients’ families in an effort to help them know what to expect and also keep them informed of the upcoming procedure.
3D Systems works directly with Anne Garcia, founder of OpHeart in 2015, six months after her own daughter, Ariana, was born with a life-threatening heart defect. Speaking about the benefits of 3D printing for CHD patients, Garcia said, “We fiercely believe that the ability to 3D print a replica of a CHD patient’s heart is an invaluable tool that can, to put it bluntly, save lives.
“By giving surgeons the ability to practice and plan for complex surgeries that involve reconnecting vessels as thin as human hairs in hearts no larger than a strawberry, it only stands to reason that the quality of surgery improves. We want every child with a life-threatening heart defect to benefit from this technology,” added Garcia.
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In order to realize the goal of OpHeart, 3D Systems has participated in OpHeart’s “Heart-in-Hand Pledge”, whereby any requesting doctor or parent receives a 3D printed model of their CHD patient’s heart in anticipation of surgery or catheterization, regardless of the family’s or hospital’s ability to pay.
To deliver on the Heart-in-Hand Pledge, 3D Systems segments 2D imaging data to create a 3D digital model. This 3D digital model is then 3D printed and shipped world-wide. 3D Systems uses a combination of its D2P™ software as well as ProJet® CJP 660Pro 3D ColorJet printer and VisiJet® materials to create the 3D printed models. The company’s team of expert biomedical engineers convert the 2D MRI or CT scan data of the heart into a 3D model using the D2P stand-alone modular software package, which is designed to address and consolidate all 3D model preparation steps. It relies on automatic segmentation tools that fast track the creation of a digital patient-specific model.
Once created, the digital model can be exported to the 3D Systems ProJet CJP 660Pro to create a full color model of the heart. Full color models allow the anatomy to be selectively colored which enables surgeons to easily identify and focus on specific portions of the model during consultations with other surgeons and also better communicate the surgical plan with patients’ families.
“From a surgeon’s perspective, the incorporation of 3D printing into our craft is enabling tremendous breakthroughs,” said Dr. Jorge Salazar, Chief of Pediatric and Congenital heart surgery at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital (Houston, Texas), and a member of the OpHeart Board of Directors.
“The full color 3D printed models provided by 3D Systems have enabled us to achieve outcomes previously considered unobtainable. Their expertise and technology are helping us advance treatment and improve patient outcomes,” added Dr. Salazar.
The Heart-in-Hand initiative is of utmost importance in saving children’s lives, as there is no insurance reimbursement for these tools. “It is our hope that as more surgical teams work with OpHeart to employ 3D Systems’ anatomical models in their CHD surgeries, we will be able to definitively demonstrate what is common sense- providing doctors the ability to better prepare for complex surgeries makes a meaningful, measurable difference in the lives of these children,” added Garcia.
“Hopefully, they will become the standard of care, as insurance companies recognize their value and reimburse for their use,” concluded Garcia.