Medical 3D printing: 3D printed heart helping to save lives
Additive manufacturing is taking more and more space in the medical industry. From tools manufacturing to 3D printed organs, we can see that 3D printing has now various applications in the medical field. We already told you about the development of some impressive 3D printed organs, and how they are helping surgeons in their daily work. Today, we are going to focus on the 3D printed heart.
26 million people worldwide are suffering from heart failure and need heart surgery or heart transplant. Let’s see how the 3D printing technology will be able to help patients when it comes to heart disease.
3D printed heart and the revolution of 3D printed organs
3D printing is helping to save lives thanks to artificial organs
As we just saw, 26 million people worldwide are suffering from heart problems, and there are not enough donors to do all the transplants that are actually needed to save lives. We saw it recently with the 3D printed kidney, or even with the 3D printed brain: 3D printing is becoming an impressive and efficient way to save lives.
3D printing could allow to create organs for all the patients in need of a transplant. However, it is still complicated to transplant devices made with plastics and metals materials. But, with the promising evolution of 3D bioprinting, the printing technology could go even further with medical applications. We can assume that in the upcoming years, it will be easier to 3D print human tissue and create actual organs using patients’ own cells. It could be possible to get a fully 3D printed heart, with heart tissue created with the original heart cells of the patient. 3D printers will be able to print human organs in no time and be transplanted in a real human body.
Custom-made organs: How is it possible?
One of the most interesting benefits of 3D printing is mass customization. This is also totally working when it comes to medical applications. Using 3D scanning and 3D modeling software, surgeons are now able to recreate organs, or create new organs or body parts totally adapted to the morphology of the patient. If you want to know what is the best 3D modeling software for medical use, check out the selection we have made in this previous blog post!
By creating parts adapted to the body and the disease of the patient, additive manufacturing has obviously an important advantage. Custom-made treatments and organs will be more reliable and will hopefully save a lot of lives. We are now going to see what has already been made, how it is already useful and how promising is this 3D printing application.
3D printed heart: A new reality
A 3D printed heart, soon able to replace a real human heart
It will soon be possible to print artificial heart able to replace real hearts and solve all the problems regarding the lack of donors for heart transplants.
A team of researchers recently developed an artificial heart using the additive manufacturing technology. Scientists from the ETH Zurich in Switzerland developed a 3D printed heart. This artificial heart can beat just like a real heart, during half an hour. After that, it breaks down. This soft artificial heart, using a transplantable and soft material is already a big success. By improving this 3D printed heart, it could progressively be efficient enough to replace a real heart for a long-term perspective.
This 3D printed silicone heart features a left and a right ventricle and beats like a real heart. The heart beats thanks to pressurized air that inflates and deflates, creating mechanical pumps driving blood through the ventricles. Watch the video of this soft 3D printed heart in action:
3D printed heart to prepare complex surgeries
3D printed organs are a big game changer for surgeons. Indeed, surgeons were already using 3D modeling software and 3D visualization software to get a better overview of the patient’s disease and prepare their intervention. 3D printing the organs to get real model is now helping them to rehearse their surgeries, get the perfect technical gestures and anticipate all the possible complications. Printing heart models can clearly help to see where a potential tumor is and what the best technique to extract it would be. Moreover, printing a heart replica is helping patients to get a better understanding of their disease, as they get a real model of their heart to visualize clearly what the problem is, and how it will be solved.
These organ models can be a solution to rehearse any kind of heart surgery. For instance, a nine-month-old baby has been saved recently in China, thanks to a 3D printed replica of his heart. He was suffering from a congenital heart defect called a Total Pulmonary Venous Anomalous Drainage. All his pulmonary veins were malpositioned and he was also suffering from an atrial septal defect. As this kind of failure is rare and quite difficult to repair, 3D printing has been the perfect solution. A replica of his heart has been 3D printed to help surgeons rehearse this complicated surgery, to know where exactly they should cut and how big their incision had to be.
A time saving method for the medical industry
3D printing a heart in order to plan a surgery is helping surgeons to save time, which can be an important factor during complex interventions. For the case of the nine months old baby with the heart failure, the surgery time has been cut by two, according to the doctors. As the surgeons know exactly what they have to do, and how they have to do it, they just have to apply what they rehearsed before the actual surgery. Time is precious, both for the surgeon and the life of the patient, and 3D printing is helping to optimize it.
Moreover, when it will become possible to 3D print an artificial heart, ready for a heart transplant, the patient will not have to wait for a donation. Doctors could be able to prepare and print a new heart when the patient needs it.
3D printed artificial organs are now a reality and are already helping with some surgeries. The recent experiments made with 3D printed hearts are really promising and are already saving lives. Soon, it will certainly be possible to perform heart transplant using a 3D printed human heart, with real heart cells!
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