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CT-Based Heart Model Helps Save Child’s Life

March 13, 2014
Written by: , Filed in: Cardiac Imaging, Pediatric Radiology
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The chief of radiology at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, used 3-D printing to turn images into tangible help for a 14-month-old boy about to undergo heart surgery.

Roland Lian Cung Bawi of Owensboro, Kentucky, was born with four life-threatening congenital heart defects. Erle Austin III, MD, of University of Louisville Physicians, was Roland’s heart surgeon. He knew surgery on the tiny heart would be tricky and wasn’t sure how to proceed. He showed the heart scans to other surgeons—and got conflicting suggestions.

Philip Dydynski, MD, the radiology chief, had recently visited the Rapid Prototyping Center at the University of Louisville’s J. B. Speed School of Engineering. He asked the center’s operations manager, Tim Gornet, to build a model of the heart, using 3-D printing. Dr. Austin said it made all the difference:

Oncer I had a model, I knew exactly what I needed to do and how I could do it. It was a tremendous benefit.

Dr. Austin was quoted by the Louisville Courier-Journal. The surgery, last month, went well. Dr. Austin said Roland now should have a normal life expectancy.

“We’re still learning about this technology,” Dr. Dydynski said, “but it has exciting applications.” The 3-D printer created the model from CT scans he supplied. The model, about one and a half times the size of the actual heart, took about 20 hours to print, at a cost of just $600.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words,” Gornert said, “then a model is worth a thousand pictures.”

Hospital officials said it was the first use of 3-D printing for a pediatric heart patient in Kentucky. The technology has been used elsewhere (as we reported last May) and seems to be fast becoming a common tool, particularly for pediatric surgeons.

Roland’s parents came to Kentucky from Burma. In a video accompanying the online version of the Courier-Journal story, his father tells his son’s cardiologist, Smitha Bullock, MD, “If we were in Burma, I don’t think he would survive. So thank you so much to you all. May God bless you.”

Related CME seminar (up to 31 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): Pediatric Radiology

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