Medical breakthroughs are a wonder to behold, as they do not only benefit those who are suffering, but push the entire field forward as well. Prototyping plays a huge rule in the kinds of medical breakthroughs we have been able to achieve globally, as additive manufacturing makes hope possible. One of the best examples recently was a surgical plan for a four-year old girl. Through this procedure companies can really see how prototyping with a heart is possible.
The surgery itself was quite complicated. The girl was suffering from a double aortic arch with blood vessels branching upward and forming a ring around her windpipe, suffocating her from the inside. In the beginning, doctors believed she had asthma, but tests revealed the awful truth soon after.
This surgery is particularly complicated, because much like fingerprints, everyone’s aortic arch is actually different. So a surgeon, no matter how skilled nor how many similar surgeries he has performed, will always be seeing something unique every time he steps into the operating room for this particular procedure. So how do you create a complicated surgical plan for a four-year old child and do minimal damage while trying to save her life?
Using data from the child’s CT scan, additive manufacturing created a prototype heart with the same defect, same vessels, proportions, etc. that the surgeon to could study. The mold was created by a 3D printer (Stratasys Ogjet500 Connex3 Multi-Material 3D Printer) and it literally saved a life. Through triple-jetting, the project took 18 hours to print, but created the same density and flexibility as the real thing.
By being able to turn the heart, examine it and ultimately come up with a plan for it, a doctor was able to save a life – and the med students of the future get a great example of designing a project from the heart to save lives.