Research Topic

The Use of 3D Printing Technology in the Management of Complex Congenital Heart Disease

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The use of 3D Printing is increasing dramatically in industry, engineering, and architecture, with continued improvements in 3D printer technology and commercialization of less expensive printers.

In the medical realm, this technology was initially applied in dentistry, maxillofacial surgery, ...

The use of 3D Printing is increasing dramatically in industry, engineering, and architecture, with continued improvements in 3D printer technology and commercialization of less expensive printers.

In the medical realm, this technology was initially applied in dentistry, maxillofacial surgery, orthopedics, and plastic and reconstructive surgery. Pioneering teams of physicians and engineers have achieved remarkable benefits for patient care in various other medical specialties and have convinced several hospitals to adopt the use of 3D models into common clinical practice.

Among the many challenges faced by congenital heart surgeons, the need to appreciate the complexity of the vast variety of cardiac malformations, in seemingly infinite combinations, dominates. Frequently, despite modern imaging modalities, including computerized tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and echocardiography, achievement of a clear understanding of an individual patient’s unique and complex cardiac malformation remains a major impediment in the efforts of congenital heart surgeons, pediatric cardiologists, and other allied health personnel to plan for optimal patient care. Over the last few years, increasing use of accurate 3D-printed models of the hearts of individual patients is emerging as a powerful tool to improve the understanding of complex anatomy, facilitating surgical planning, contributing to avoidance of intraoperative surprises, minimizing operative time, and optimizing overall outcome. Likewise, 3D cardiac models have also been valuable in the planning of catheter interventions addressing a variety of pathologies in congenital as well as in acquired heart disease.

Of course, creating accurate cardiac models faces many challenges, as opposed to models of bony structures or of other solid organs, given that the heart is a moving organ with “image density” similar to that of many surrounding tissues, thereby imparting difficulties on the various imaging modalities from which data for 3D-Printing of cardiac models are derived. Therefore, continued research is necessary, and it is indeed ongoing in this rapidly evolving field.

In addition to facilitation of individual patient care, new areas of application of cardiac 3D-printing emerge, including use of individualized models for more effective communication with patients or parents, and, of course, surgical teaching. In fact, the use of such models is poised to revolutionize surgical education, which can now be enriched by the ease of availability of risk-free surgical simulation. Already some congenital cardiac surgical training programs are using this technology to assist in the education of the next generation of pediatric cardiac surgeons and interventional cardiologists.

The aim of this Research Topic is to provide an overview of the current state of the art of the use of 3D-printing in the treatment of cardiac malformations in congenital but also in acquired heart disease, and to highlight the future directions of this exciting technology. Contributors are recognized pioneering experts in this rapidly evolving field. We hope that these articles will increase awareness of the possibilities afforded by this much promising technology, inspiring further input and efforts to push the boundaries for the benefit of our patients.


Keywords: cardiac models, 3D Printing


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