3D Printing & Children’s Heart Surgery

The genesis of OpHeart was a conversation between Anne Garcia and her daughter Ariana’s surgeon, Dr. Enrique Garcia.  Anne used 3D printing for prototyping purposes as a product developer, and wanted to 3D print a model of Ariana’s heart as a thank-you gift to Dr. Garcia, also envisioning it as a tool whereby Dr. Garcia could better explain to other parents what Transposition of the Great Arteries, Ariana’s particular CCHD, is- something she struggled with.

Anne approached Dr. Garcia in order to get her daughter’s MRI and CT scans, which were needed to print the model, and Dr. Garcia’s response would eventually lead to OpHeart.

“It would be worth a million dollars to me if I could have a model of a patient’s heart before I go into the operating room.”

The ensuing 4-hour conversation set Anne on a path of determining how to get Dr. Garcia this tool.

Operating on a Child’s Heart is Almost Unimaginable

  • A baby’s heart is the size of a walnut.
  • The heart must be stopped, drained of blood and flat in order for the surgeon to operate.
  • The bypass machine that a child must be on to perform open-heart surgery is risky and there is a finite amount of time that a child can be on it before she is at risk for multiple organ failure and brain damage.
  • Thus, surgeons are in a race against time to repair the heart.
  • Without 3D printed models, surgeons rely on 2-dimensional images in preparing for surgery, and only see a 3D version of the heart upon opening the chest.
  • Corrective surgery requires cutting, moving and sewing structures that can be as thin as a human hair.
  • Surgeons do not rely on robotics but are doing all of this with their own two hands.
  • Oftentimes, surgeons have only 1 try to attempt a particular repair- there is no possibility of undoing what has been done.

How 3D Printing Models of Patients’ Hearts Before Surgery Can Help

  • Surgeons can decide what is the best corrective treatment before they enter the OR
  • New treatment options are possible because they have time to study the intricacies of the patient’s heart and practice different options
  • Surgeons are more confident when they are in the OR
  • All members of the care team better understand a patient’s cardiopathy- from intensive care unit nurses, to the intensivists to the cardiologists, to the perfusionist, to the anesthesiologist- and this will inform their care
  • Parents can visualize their child’s heart defect and be better advocates
  • It can be used to educate and train young doctors and residents

Why These Advantages Matter

  • Optimal surgical decisions
  • Better use of time in the OR
  • Better executed surgeries
  • Less time in surgery
  • Lower risk of complications
  • Less recovery time for patients
  • Reduced probability of resurgeries or interventions
  • Lower costs to families, hospitals, insurers, and the health care system

This All Translates To

  • Healthier and happier babies and families with a better quality of life

If you would like to help get surgeons and families this tool, please consider donating here.