Singapore uses 3D printed hearts to train surgeons

The KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Singapore is using 3D printed heart models to train surgeons on complex procedures.

The hospital has printed eight 3D models of heart defects in actual patients to help cardiothoracic surgeons plan their surgeries in advance.

Surgeons typically use a 2D sonogram of the heart and their previous experience for diagnosis and planning. But the smaller size of the heart in children and the complexity of certain birth-related heart defects makes these surgeries more challenging.

“These 3D print heart models have enabled us to be more efficient and precise, especially in cases with complex anatomies,” said Dr Nakao Masakazu, Consultant, Cardiothoracic Surgery Service, KKH.

Such simulation-based training will help doctors be better prepared to improve surgical procedures, added Dr Chen Ching Kit, Consultant, Cardiology Service, KKH.

“The advancement of 3D printing technology has enabled us to examine the heart, a 3D structure, in an actual 3D format, which can be held in our hands; this is more useful in relaying anatomy than simply trying to imagine the structure from 2D images,” he said.

The hospital has learn from others in the world which are using this approach including the Boston Children’s Hospital in the US and The Hospital for Sick Children in Canada.

The hospital will next week hold a workshop to train 50 specialists with 3D printed heart models.

Image by Jonathan Juursema, CC BY-SA 3.0

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