Medically Accurate 3D Printed Hearts

Preoperative Planning from 3D Printed Hearts

Preoperative study and inspection of complicated disorders has been limited to review of images and image slices. This project brings anatomically correct 3D printed models to the surgeon prior to operation so the surgeon can fully understand the state of the organ prior to making the first incision. A 3D printed heart using the X3D standard helps surgeons rethink their strategy and make better surgical decisions.

The Challenge:  Most surgeons use 2D images taken by X-ray, ultrasound and MRI for surgical planning. However, these images may not reveal complex internal structures and complications in the heart's chambers.

The Solution: Surgeons can use accurate 3D printed organs for preoperative diagnostic techniques to improve surgical decisions.  Using detailed MRIs as a guide, doctors now can design and print an accurate and detailed 3D model of the heart from various materials, such as plaster or ceramic, to reveal even the most complicated structural abnormalities.  With 3D printing, surgeons can think through their strategies and make better surgical decisions before they go into the operating room.

3D printed models provide a new dimension of understanding that cannot be attained by 2D or even 3D images. 3D printing technology is advancing at a rapid pace, but it is difficult to find or create 3D-printable models that are scientifically accurate or medically applicable. These heart models were created using the NIH 3D Print Exchange using the X3D Open ISO Standard .  Of note is that X3D includes color and metadata attributes that are not available in the STL file format which is more commonly used for 3D printing today.

Case Study Contributors. Dr. Matthew Bramlet is the lead investigator at Jump Simulation. He specializes in children with congenital heart disease at Children’s Hospital of Illinois. He has pioneered anatomically accurate 3D congenital heart models. Some of his heart models are available at the NIH heart library.

The NIH 3D Print Exchange provides models in formats that are readily compatible with 3D printers, and offers a unique set of tools to create and share 3D-printable models related to biomedical science. 3D printing technology is now easily accessible, but most researchers little experience using the software required to create digital models. NIH provides video tutorials and additional resources with instruction on 3D modeling software to enable users to customize 3D models and maximize the potential of 3D printing. See illustrated workflows to learn about the automated pipelines that create 3D-printable models from your very own data.

Opportunity: Developers can aid in the integration of more X3D tools that can further advance this workflow.  Join the dialog in the Medical Working Group to participate in this ongoing progress.

Products Used: 
NIH 3D Models, X3D, X3DOM