Doctors in China have performed the first successful open heart surgery using a 3D-printed heart model to save a nine-month-old baby suffering from a severe heart defect.
The boy, who weighed 5.6kg before surgery, was experiencing shortness of breath after birth and was diagnosed with Congenital Heart Defect (CHD).
The surgery performed in the northeast Jilin Province was the first open heart surgery performed using 3D printing technology through which a full-sized heart replica modelled the boy's cardiac structure and helped the doctors plan the operation, state-run Xinhua news agency reported Thursday.
"With the model, we were able to know precisely where and how we should cut, and how big the incision should be. And with such a thorough plan, we spent only half the time we had expected to complete the surgery," Zhang Xueqin, the baby's surgeon and director of the paediatric cardiac surgery centre at the People's Hospital of Jilin said.
The operation took place on 11 March, and the infant has already been transferred to a general ward and is recovering.
"The defect was very rare and complicated," Zhang said. The young patient suffered from 'total pulmonary venous anomalous drainage' - which means all four of his pulmonary veins were malpositioned. He also had an atrial septal defect, causing blood to flow between the upper chambers of the heart.
"He was taken to the hospital and was critically ill with heart failure and severe pneumonia, because the boy is so young and small, it was difficult to develop the best surgery plan using just an ultrasound examination,'' he said.
If treatment had been delayed, the baby's chance of dying before his first birthday would have been as high as 80 per cent, he said, adding that to save the child, the team turned to 3D printing.
"China's first cardiac surgery using 3D technology is believed to have been on 21 July 2015, on a nine-month-old boy with CHD in east China's Jiangsu Province. The technology will hopefully be more widely used in medicine in the future,'' Zhang said.