When it was discovered that an 18-month old boy in Los Angeles had a heart defect, Dr. Frank Ing and his team at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles knew what to do. Sadly, due to a genetic abnormality, the baby’s pulmonary artery was obstructed and blocking blood flow from his heart to his lungs. What he needed was a stent to prop the artery open.
There was just one problem. They don’t make stents for kids that little.
The solution? A 3-D printer Using CT scans of the baby's heart, CHLA Advanced Imaging Cardiologist Dr. Jon Detterich and Materialise Inc. were able to create a 3-D printed model of the obstructed artery. Once the plastic model was printed, Dr. Ing was able to make a stent that would fit the artery perfectly — just nine millimeters long! The model also helped to simulate the surgery for the team and bring everyone to a common understanding on how to fashion the stent.
The printed model made the whole process much faster and smoother. “You wouldn’t have NASA send spaceships to the moon without simulation,” says Dr. Ing. Likewise, you wouldn’t operate on an infant’s heart without knowing exactly how it looks. 3-D printing made it that much easier.