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Hong Kong Researchers Pioneer Use of 3D Printing For Faster, Safer Heart Surgery

Until the first working 3D bioprinted heart will be available it will still take some time. But 3D printing is already helping patients with heart disease. Now researchers in Hong Kong have developed a new method for a heart surgery that uses 3D printing.

As first step the heart is 3D scanned, this is done with an ultrasound scanner. It results in a 3D model of the heart. Goal of the new technique is to close the heart atrium of the left heart. This is already done with conventional methods but there are some problems with the “old technique”. It’s really difficult to find the correct size of the gauge. Now you may ask why the atrium of a working heart might be closed – the answer is a little more complex: If a patient has atrial fibrillation and can’t take blood thinner he needs this operation to minimize the risk of a stroke. There are also other reasons but that’s the main reason for this operation.

As already mentioned, with conventional technologies it was very difficult to find the correct size of the gauge to close it. In some of the operations the doctors needed two or even more tries to find the correct size for the “plug”. But that needs more time on a heart operation and that was not good for the patient. With the 3D scanning and a 3D printed model these problem should not occur anymore. The surgeons could find the perfect “plug” for the heart atrium and plan the operation better to make it more efficient.

Personalised planning can be done before operation, and doctors would know which size of occluder to use with the model

With this technique the researchers have developed a new method for this kind of heart surgery. The new method is faster, more efficient and has big benefits for the patient. It was already used in 3 surgeries in Hong Kong.

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