by Janet Fang /

A two-week-old baby’s very complicated heart surgery was made much simpler thanks to a 3D printed replica of the infant’s tiny heart. Born with congenital heart defects, the patient had life-saving surgery at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital this past July.

“The baby’s heart had holes, which are not uncommon with CHD, but the heart chambers were also in an unusual formation, rather like a maze,” cardiac surgeon Emile Bacha of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital tells the CT Post

The technique Bacha’s team used involves running data from an MRI through a 3D printer to create a model of a patient’s heart. This allows surgeons to examine the heart and spot any irregularities before performing the actual surgery.

“In the past, we had to stop the heart and look inside to decide what to do,” Bacha tells the Connecticut News-Times. “With this technique, it was like we had a road map to guide us,”he adds. Having the model to look at made things much easier, and the team was able to repair the baby’s heart with one just operation.

The procedure was funded by Matthew’s Hearts of Hope, a Connecticut-based nonprofit foundation raising awareness for congenital heart defects. “This is a game changer for CHD babies with complicated heart anatomy,” foundation founder Marie Hatcher tells The Independent. “Normally the first time the surgeon sees the heart is when the chest is open, now they have the ability to plan out the surgery ahead of time while looking at a 3D heart of the baby or child’s heart.”

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