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Opportunities and challenges with 3D printing in cardiology

par Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | May 07, 2018
3D Printing Cardiology
Cost needs to come down
3D printing is a game-changing technology for patients with congenital heart disease (CHD), according to a new review paper published in JACC: Basic to Translational Science.

“3D printing enables precise pre-surgical planning and simulation, an ideal tool for trainee education, patient and family counseling and facilitates effective communications between multi-disciplinary teams,” Dr. Shafkat Anwar, lead author and pediatric cardiologist at Washington University, told HCB News.

He explained that 3D models for treating CHD have the potential to reduce the learning curve for cardiac trainees. It can help them better understand complex anatomy and provide them with high-fidelity simulation experiences and exposure to rare cases.

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Specialists can use the 3D models to discuss pathology, surgical plans, expected outcomes and perioperative care with one another. The models can also be used to help patients and caregivers better understand the disease process, risks, benefits and alternatives.

That is all well and good, but it doesn’t mean much if cardiologists can’t get their hands on the 3D printing technology. Anwar said that its high cost is currently hindering widespread adoption, but he’s optimistic that will change.

“More printer manufacturers are entering the field, introducing more innovation and competition,” he said. “As a result, the technology is getting less expensive and quality of 3D printing is improving.”

He added that large academic centers, universities and hospitals are investing in 3D printing centers, which is spurring more innovation and growth in the marketplace.

Materials that mimic human tissue are currently in development. According to the paper, as models become more realistic, they may be used to study pathophysiology, predict long-term outcomes and select optimal treatment plans or surgical repairs.

Anwar concluded that although the technology is still in its infancy, there is the potential to print living tissue.

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