China / Society

Doctors use 3-D print technology to save baby with heart disease

By WANG XIN/CANG WEI (China Daily) Updated: 2015-08-27 06:40

Doctors at Nanjing Children's Hospital in Jiangsu province have successfully treated a 9-month-old baby with congenital heart disease by using 3-D technology.

The case was the first of its kind in China, the hospital said.

The baby, Jin Chenchen, of neighboring Anhui province, was diagnosed with severe heart disease a month before he was born.

Doctors found three holes in the boy's heart-one was 2 centimeters in diameter. He repeatedly came down with colds and had pneumonia three times. Doctors feared he would not live long if left untreated.

During an operation on July 3, doctors closed three holes in his heart. But Jin had difficulty breathing when he was taken off a respirator in the operating room, indicating his heart was not functioning well.

An ultrasound test revealed additional holes in the wall dividing the heart's left and right ventricles. The defects were so deep they did not show in previous exams.

To avoid cutting into his heart, doctors ended the first surgery and devised a new plan.

Normal ultrasounds only give two-dimensional images, said Zuo Weisong, director of the hospital's ultrasound department.

"Surgeons have to rely on their experience and imagination with 2-D images," Zuo said. "That worries them when the disease is complicated."

Sun Jian, deputy director of the hospital's cardiothoracic department, said the doctors were inspired by an online news story about some US doctors who used 3-D technology to print a heart to save a baby with congenital heart disease.

"We contacted a 3-D printing company immediately," Sun said. "Doctors from the CT scan department worked with professional engineers and managed to print the baby's heart after analyzing its images carefully and modeling repeatedly."

To save money for the parents, they used the cheapest material. The 3-D model at a cost of 700 yuan ($109), which can be dismantled into three parts, presented detailed information to the doctors to work out a detailed plan for further surgery.

"The 3-D printing is very useful in curing children with complicated congenital heart disease," Sun said.

"It will be used widely in many fields of medicine with the development of materials and the 3-D technology."

On July 21, the surgeons operated again, closing the remaining holes in the boy's heart. Four days later, he was taken off a respirator.

Jin was discharged on Wednesday.

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