5-year-old Mia Gonzalez suffered from a rare heart malformation called double aortic arch, a condition in which a vascular ring wraps around either the trachea or esophagus, restricting airflow. The life-threatening condition could only be repaired through an intricate operation. A 3D printed model of Mia’s heart enhanced the planning phase so the surgical team could optimally visualize Mia’s specific heart structure.
“The challenge is a surgical one, how do you divide this double aortic arch and save her life without hurting her,” said Dr. Redmond Burke, Director of Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, part of Miami Children’s Health System. “By making a 3D model of her very complex aortic arch vessels, we were able to further visualize which part of her arch should be divided to achieve the best physiological result. It’s very powerful when you show a family ‘this is your baby’s heart and this is how I’m going to repair it.’”
Often misdiagnosed as asthma, Mia’s symptoms included labored breathing and choking. Once the condition was diagnosed using a CT scan at Nicklaus Children’s, Mia’s family was told she would need surgery to repair the arches in her heart.
As a rule, surgeons prefer to develop a plan before entering complex operations. Unfortunately, no two people are alike – with each organ differing from those in textbooks. To improve patient outcomes, surgeons at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital have begun to leverage advanced tools, including Stratasys 3D Printers – charting a course using lifelike 3D printed organs.
“Once patient scan data from MRI or CT imaging is fed into the Stratasys 3D Printer, doctors can create a model with all its intricacies, specific features and fine detail. This significantly enhances surgical preparedness, reduces complications and decreases operating time,” said Scott Rader, GM of Medical Solutions at Stratasys.
After 3D printing and examining Mia’s heart model, Dr. Burke determined the best course of action by scrutinizing and visualizing the surgical solution on the model. The heart model supported doctors in performing an extremely successful surgery.
Mia recovered quickly and is finally living the life of a happy and healthy child. “Going from four-and-a-half years of not knowing to being back to normal in less than two months: That’s been a great experience for us,” said Mia’s mother, Katherine Gonzalez.