A baby-faced warrior of the operating table, Adanelie Gonzalez was born with a serious heart condition that stops the flow of blood from her heart to her lungs. By the time she was four years old, she had been under the knife twice for open-heart surgery.
Gonzalez was born with a rare condition called total anomalous pulmonary venous connection. Most of us have four veins that carry blood from the heart to the left atrium of our lungs. For the four-year-old, the blood didn’t travel from her heart to her lungs, which meant difficulty breathing, lethargy and a weakened immune system that often made her sick, according to CNET.
With 3-D printing technology, her cardiac surgeons at Miami Children’s Hospital were able to practice the procedure in advance on a 3-D copy of her heart created from a CT, essentially a picture of her heart. Here’s how that works: Before her recent surgery, a CT scan was taken of the toddler’s heart; a model was then made of her heart, which was shared with a company that literally printed a 3-D copy of it. In an article in 3D Printing Industry, Dr. Redmond Burke, chief of cardiovascular surgery at Miami Children’s, said that he was grateful for the visual representations because he “couldn’t picture” how the operation would look otherwise.
“We were running out of options as she had already had a couple of surgeries in the newborn period,” Dr. Nancy Dobrolet, a pediatric cardiologist at the hospital, told 3D Printing Industry. “It became clear that to prolong her life … she needed to have another procedure done.”
Miami Children’s had never done this operation before. According to Tech Times, Gonzalez’ life expectancy has jumped from “days and weeks” to “years and decades.”
The use of 3-D printing is really taking off in medicine.
“The overall direction is to make complex operations simpler,” Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, a plastic surgeon at Boston’s Brigham and Women's Hospital who uses 3-D printing for pre-surgical planning, told Crain’s Chicago Business. “This may be one of the most profound tools that we hope to use in the coming future.”
Learn more about the 3-D printing procedure in The Miami Herald video below:
Top screenshot courtesy of The Miami Herald’s YouTube Channel