3D printing gets to heart of matter

DOCTORS in Hong Kong are using 3D printers to help with heart surgery.

They make realistic heart models with the technology for planning and practising. This will make surgeries safer and quicker.

The technology was developed by a joint research team of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong University.

CUHK cardiology assistant professor Alex Lee Pui-wai (心臟科助理教授李沛威) said the new technology best suits planning for interventional cardiac surgery, including complex congenital heart problems.

Lee explained that doctors proceed with the surgery after an ultrasound scan, but it may take repeated attempts because the heart structure is complex. The more attempts there are, the higher the risk is of piercing the heart, though the chance is not high.

With software developed by HKU’s mechanical engineering department, 3D data is collected from ultrasound scans and a customised silicon model is produced.

The model allows doctors to rehearse for the surgery. Each model costs less than HK$20.

The new technology has many benefits. It shortens the operation’s duration and lowers the risk of picking a wrong size implant material or putting it in from a wrong angle.

Prince of Wales Hospital was the first local hospital to use the technology and has completed a few heart surgeries successfully.

(This article is published on Junior Standard on 31 May 2016)

Smart patient – coronary heart disease

HKU press release