Pediatric innovation:March 8th 2014 9:10 AM
The 3D printer has rapidly become something of a medtech superhero. In its latest feat, the technology helped surgeons at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky save a child born with congenital heart defects.
3D printing technology saved the day when pediatric surgeons needed a customized trachea splint when an infant’s trachea collapsed. It’s improved the quality of life for a man injured in a motorcycle accident.
It wasn’t an implant. According to the Courier-Journal, surgeons at the children’s hospital created a model of the heart using flexible rubber, called “Ninja Flex” polymer, to map out how they would navigate the interior parts of the heart of such a young person.
Congenital heart defects are the most common types of birth defects. They affect nearly 40,000 infants born in the US each year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.
Here’s how it worked.
A radiologist created a 3D image of the boy’s heart by getting cross sections and putting them together on a 3D visual map.
That image was processed through a Maker Bot Replicator with a $2,500 price tag. It was built to be twice the size that was required to make it easier to use as a model and took 20 hours to make. It was also built with three parts to make it easier to go over the procedure.
Physicians are just beginning to appreciate the enormous potential of 3D printers not just to reduce healthcare costs but in areas such as pediatrics which although underserved by the medical device market has a particular need for customizable products for young patients. A group of physicians at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia formed a think tank to develop applications for 3D printers.