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3D Printing is Helping Surgeons Practice Heart Operations

The use of 3D printers has led to new advancements in the medical field. Surgeons now can practice on models, created with 3D printing technology, based on a specific patient’s heart. The surgeons and researchers at the University of Washington are creating these 3D printed hearts in order to practice a form of heart surgery that utilizes catheters, and the results are fascinating.

The procedure involves using surgical tubes, small enough to fit inside an artery, to perform delicate operations. The use of catheters in this form of surgery is less invasive, but it also means the surgeon cannot see what is going on as well. So, these 3D models give the surgeons a big leg up in making sure they know what exactly is going on with each individual. The patient’s heart is mapped out with medical scanning equipment, and modeled on a computer. State of the art 3D printers create the model out of a malleable plastic, which are then cleaned up for accuracy and given to surgeons.

The whole process can be completed within hours, giving the patients and doctors more time to complete the actual procedure. The ability for the doctor to practice on the model also makes the procedures quicker and safer, according to Dr. Mark Reisman of the University of Washington. The 3D printed hearts give an accurate depiction of each unique heart, so a surgeon can practice while tailoring to a patient’s unique needs. Hopefully, more breakthroughs can be made utilizing these kinds of technologies.