May 2, 2018 | By David
Recent research suggests that the medical field of cardiology is one that could soon be seeing a major boost from the implementation of 3D printing. The technology is already emerging as a promising new way for cardiologists to treat patients with congenital heart disease (CHD), and should continue to have an impact, according to a review paper published today in the journal of the American College of Cardiology, JACC: Basic to Translational Science. The paper was entitled “3D Printing is a Transformative Technology in Congenital Heart Disease”, and was co-authored by Shafkat Anwar, Gautam K. Singh, Jacob Miller, Monica Sharma, Peter Manning, Joseph J. Billadello, Pirooz Eghtesady and Pamela K. Woodard.
For every 1,000 people born, around 9 of them are likely to develop CHD in one form or another, at some point in life. Medical breakthroughs have seen to it that the survival and recovery rate for these individuals is already relatively high, and still increasing even for the most complex of cases. However, these patients are still likely to face many other health obstacles and challenges including the risk of long-term morbidity, re-intervention, length of hospitalization, neurodevelopmental outcomes and more.
There is still some way to go, then, for the treatment of CHD, and 3D printing could have a major part to play in its future progress. The technology has already impacted dozens of other specialist medical fields in transformational and often revolutionary ways. We’ve seen 3D printed spinal implants become increasingly common in orthopaedics, as well as 3D printed prosthetics, and 3D printed surgical guides to improve the success of risky procedures. The expanding field of 3D bio-printing, meanwhile, has huge potential for tissue regeneration, wound healing, and even the development of replacement organs sometime in the future.
According to Shafkat Anwar, MD, pediatric cardiologist at Washington University in St. Louis, School of Medicine, “Obtaining the best outcomes requires impact at multiple levels, including patients and caregivers, individual clinicians, the medical team and healthcare system. 3D printing is a disruptive technology that is impacting each of these key areas in CHD…3D printing is rapidly evolving in medicine, with technical improvements in printers and software fueling new and exciting applications in patient care, innovation and research.”
The use of 3D printed surgical guides is perhaps the most promising growth area for cardiology. 3D printed cardiovascular models, based on CT scans or other types of 3D images, are capable of mimicking the exact structure of a patient’s cardiovascular system, and this is useful for surgeons in the process of planning an operation. Operating times could be reduced significantly, as could the chances of complications. These guides are also helpful for communicative purposes, facilitating discussions between specialists and helping to provide patients and caregivers with a better understanding of the disease process, risks, benefits and alternatives.
In terms of education, the use of 3D printing technology may lead to an educational shift from an apprenticeship model to a simulator-based learning method, which would augment the traditional mentored training. Using 3D printed models in CHD can reduce the learning curve for cardiac trainees in three crucial ways. They could help them to understand the complex cardiovascular structures, as well as providing high-fidelity simulation experiences, and enabling more exposure to rare cases.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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