“This study is incredibly important because it will finally quantify what we know from firsthand experience. 3D models improve surgery, improve outcomes and result in lower treatment costs, and if we can empirically demonstrate this, it will be a game-changer for treating not only children with congenital heart defects, but patients across the board.”
In a Nutshell
Pediatric cardiac doctors at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Children’s National Medical Center have put together a proposal to study the effects of utilizing 3D printed models of patients’ hearts during pre-operative planning. Insurance currently does not pay for 3D prints. OpHeart wants to help fund and manage the study because we believe that this tool is indispensable in the treatment of our heart warriors, and that the study will prove the financial efficacy of 3D printing to insurers.
Currently, cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons review 2D data of a patient’s generated by MRIs or CT scans and convert it into a 3D image in their heads. However, despite the fact that these doctors are especially gifted in mentally reconstructing the defective hearts, it is not foolproof, and is especially difficult, even for the most practiced and talented surgeons, to imagine spatial relationships of certain intracardiac structures.
For example, with certain heart defects, the manner in which the heart can be repaired is determined by the distance between particular structures. Relying on 2D data and even utilizing 3D models on the computer still doesn’t capture the space between these structures, and surgeons cannot formulate a surgical plan until they open up the patient’s heart.
However, 3D printing allows surgeons to not only decide on the optimal repair, but additionally even allows them to practice the repair, ensuring the best possible outcome once the patient is in surgery and time is critical. The ability to plan for and practice surgery is thought to lead to less bypass time, less circulatory arrest time, fewer days in the ICU and fewer reoperations.
This study will the first (and is currently the only) of its kind to attempt to measure and quantify the anecdotal evidence that surgeons and cardiologists are reporting. Currently, insurance companies refuse to cover the costs associated with 3D printing models of patients’ hearts. The hope is that, armed with the cost benefits that go hand-in-hand with better surgical outcomes and healthier babies, they will agree to pay for the tool, and all children will benefit.
If you would like to help fund this pivotal study, please consider donating here.
There are rare intersections where a technology advances to the point where it becomes a solution to a critical and long-standing problem. This is one of those times, and 3D printing has advanced to the point where it has the potential to completely change the landscape of surgical planning. The benefit of doing this study, the benefit of ensuring that these problems and the solution collide head-on is that more children get to live.