3D-printed model heart helps doctors save a little girl's life

In desperate need to fix a young girl's heart, a team of cardiovascular surgeons at Miami Children's Hospital tap 3D-printing to help make the operation a success.

Anthony Domanico
CNET freelancer Anthony Domanico is passionate about all kinds of gadgets and apps. When not making words for the Internet, he can be found watching Star Wars or "Doctor Who" for like the zillionth time. His other car is a Tardis.
Anthony Domanico
2 min read

We've seen several accounts of 3D-printing being used to save the lives of patients, and out of Florida comes another such wonderful story.

Cardiovascular surgeons at Miami Children's Hospital turned to 3D printing to print out a scale replica of a 4-year-old girl's heart so they could plan for a complicated surgery to save the girl's life. She suffers from a congenital condition called anomalous pulmonary venous connection (TAPVC), which basically means her veins pump blood to the wrong part of her heart, causing breathing difficulties, lethargy and a weakened immune system that left her sick often.

After a few band-aid surgeries that proved to be temporary fixes, doctors knew they needed to come up with a solution. The situation was dire, as the cardiac team estimated that she would only live for another few weeks, if not days, without a permanent fix. Using the 3D-printed model, the doctors were able to plan a surgery that hadn't been performed before using parts from a donor heart, and today young Adanelie Gonzalez's blood is flowing normally and she's recovering in the hospital.

The story recalls a couple of other similar cases, such as one at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian, where last year doctors also practiced a complex heart surgery on a 3D model before operating on a baby.

"3D printing adds another element in caring for extremely complex conditions where surgical intervention is not typically thought possible," pediatric cardiologist Nancy Dobrolet said in a release. "In Adanelie's case, the 3D model provided us with way to create a surgical option for her survival."

It's another example of the miracles 3D-printing is bringing to health care, and if it isn't enough to give you all of the feels, we don't know what will.

A physician holds the 3D model of a young girl's heart as he explains the operation to save her life. Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

(Via 3DPrint)