Cardiologists use 3D-printed hearts to practice surgery on infants
Published Friday, January 8, 2016 6:57PM EST
A dozen of the world's top heart experts are being brought in to Toronto to learn about complex heart surgery on infants using 3D-printed hearts.
Cardiologists will be practicing techniques using tiny plastic hearts printed by Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, also known as Sick Kids Hospital.
"It's a tremendous privilege to do what we do. It's also a tremendous responsibility," Dr. Glen Van Arsdell told CTV Toronto's Pauline Chan. Van Arsdell is the head of cardiovascular surgery at Sick Kids.
Van Arsdell called the exercise "next level training," saying that doctors used to have to use photos. Then came 3D computer images, but they were still only visible on a 2D screen.
Now, doctors can use those images from CAT scans or MRIs to create 3D models they can actually cut up and sew.
The life-sized hearts are printed layer by layer using plastics, metals or acrylics, and take seven hours to make. They allow surgeons to practice tricky procedures without risking the lives of their most vulnerable patients.
"Anything that has do to with re-orienting the arteries or making new tunnels, or putting in tubes or patches and grafts, those things we can do (with the models)," Van Arsdell said.
"As a very experienced surgeon, I've done some operations on these models and I can tell you it duplicates the kinds of things you have to do in the operating room."
One of the visiting doctors, Fred Halvorsen, said he's already been sharing information with his colleagues in Norway.
"I've texted them videos and pictures from the course," he told CTV Toronto.
Currently the models are only used for the most complex operations, but doctors are hoping for an increase in funding to allow them to use the technique more often.
"I think in time, it will save lives," Van Arsdell said.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Pauline Chan