A five-year-old girl, who had a life threatening heart condition has made a full recovery, thanks to an innovative technique used by a surgeon in the United States.
In March, Mia Gonzalez was given just days to live.
She had a rare heart malformation, known as Fouble Aortic Arch, which restricts a person’s airflow.
Doctors believed the condition was inoperable. However, when a 3D model was made of the young girl’s heart, a surgeon managed to locate the problem, which he then went on to repair in the operating theatre.
Dr Redmond Burke from the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami told Sky News: “I hold the baby’s heart in my hand when I repair it, but I can’t hold a CT scan or an MRI.
“A 3D replica of a child’s heart I can hold, so this is a completely different way to provide information to a surgeon.
“It is much more compelling. We need to feel things in our hands. It’s very powerful when you show a family their baby’s heart and explain how you’ll repair it.”
Mia has now made a full recovery and is taking part in sporting activities.
Her mother says that after nearly five years of despair it’s a relief that her daughter is now on the mend.
Three dimensional models take around nine hours to be made on a specialist printer.
The patient’s organs are scanned by an MRI machine. They are then fed to a computer and the printer converts them into a 3D model. Each one costs around £400 to make.
At a printing factory in Cambridgeshire, various models have been produced to show medical experts the location of dental cavities, kidney stones and tumours.
Those working in the industry believe the technique is becoming increasingly popular, not just in the United States, but also in the UK.
3D printing consultant Dr Phil Reeves said: “If surgeons can see what they need to do before an operation, they can reduce time in theatre, they can plan, they can get operations done more quickly, which is known to speed up a person’s recovery.
“Overall it is extremely cost effective.”
Mia’s surgeon insists the printing technique saved the five-year-old’s life. It’s hoped in the future it will do the same for many others in the UK.