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3D printing for surgical interventions of congenital heart diseases

3D printing of three-dimensional models to plan surgical interventions is a growing trend in the medical sector, mainly to prepare interventions such as congenital heart diseases. The first intervention where this kind of prototypes was used was in 2014, in a Dutch kid, aged 3, and it supposed a milestone for the public health. The authors were a team of researcher doctors and engineers from Sevilla (Spain), who form a start-up, Digitálica Salud, in the Virgen del Rocío University Hospital. These professionals, specialised in advanced health informatics, are committed to the design and printing of 3D biomodels that have turned into real; impressive models and prototypes, exact replicas of the real anatomy, representing the kid’s heart at real scale, since he suffers from a severe congenital heart disease.

Cardiovascular surgeons, once they already have the heart 3D-modeled, are able to plan the surgery and choose the best way of dealing with it, since they can access to blind angles that are impossible to be seen in an operating theatre.

In addition, thanks to the improvement of materials it is possible to manage the biomodel with the same surgical instruments used in the operating theatre, by using flexible plastic filaments instead of rigid.

The pre-surgical planning is essential to avoid unforeseen events in the operating theatre, taking into account that operating congenital heart diseases is extremely difficult, since it exists a variability even in a type of malformation itself and due to the small size of this organ (particularly in children) and the extremely serious situation in which most of them are.

The results of the first surgeries allows saying that, a priori, the pre-surgical planning with this biomodels makes easier to gain surgical precision, reducing the surgical times and increasing the rate of success. Since 2014, 23 children all over the world have already benefit from this project.

This technology will be presented in the seminar Plastics are Future, an event organised by AIMPLAS on 26 and 27 April in Valencia, where it is expected that more than 100 professionals attend to analyse new challenges in the plastics field in order to be at the service of the society needs.