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Rady Children's Specialists

Heart Institute

3D Heart Modeling Program

Nearly one out of every 100 newborns in the United States is born with a heart defect. As medicine has evolved over the recent decades, with the advent of technology such as high-resolution cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and cardiac computed tomography (CT) scanning, our ability to examine and understand a child’s heart has vastly improved. Thanks to advancements in 3D printing technology, we can now take this understanding to a new level.

Advanced Printing Technology

Pediatric heart model (size of a plum) printed in tissue-like material (Tissue Matrix and Agilus 30) on the Stratasys J750™ Digital Anatomy™ 3D Printer)

The Helen and Will Webster Foundation 3D Innovations Lab at Rady Children’s  is one of the first facilities in the nation to acquire a 3D printer with the ability to print models that simulate human tissue. Since installing the new machine, the lab has printed life-like models of hearts, airways and bones. This has enabled incredibly precise surgical planning as well as the opportunity for enhanced training and teaching for faculty, residents and students.

Here at Rady Children’s Heart Institute, our cardiac surgeons, led by John Nigro, M.D., are currently using 3D models of congenital heart defects to plan complex heart surgeries.  The models are also a powerful education tool for patients and families, as the physician can go from evaluating an image of a patient’s heart on a screen to holding a lifelike model of it in his hands.

First in San Diego

Rady Children’s is the first hospital in San Diego with a 3D heart modeling program, under the direction of Sanjeet Hegde, M.D. To create the model, Dr. Hegde puts the imaging data from a patient’s cardiac CT and MRI scans into a special software program to generate a computer-aided design file. The file is then sent to the 3D printer, which prints out a physical model of the heart.

Video: Learn about our 3D Heart Modeling Program

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