In February 2014 a young 14-month-old boy named Roland Lian Cung Bawi underwent a very complicated and serious heart surgery. The pediatric cardiologists who were taking care of him knew that the boy suffered from an extremely rare heart disorder.
Bawi’s aorta and pulmonary arteries were not aligned properly and to make his condition even more complicated for surgeons to fix, he had a hole in his heart.
Just before the surgery the surgeons had only 2D images of Bawi’s heart. Unfortunately, the images were too blurry and were not accurate enough so the surgeons could plan the best possible surgery. Luckily surgeon Erle Austin had the amazing idea to work with the School of Engineering at Louisville, Kentucky. The scientists there already had great experience with 3D printing and were happy to help. After receiving the relevant digital information from Bawi’s tests the engineers were able to create an exact 3D replica of his heart. It was 1.5 times larger than the actual heart and it also was constructed from tissue-like material.
Once Dr. Austin had the 3D printed heart in his hands he knew exactly what needed to be done and how he could do it. Eventually the surgeons completed the surgery in less time and with no complications whatsoever. This was the first time a 3D printer was used for pediatric heart surgery in the state of Kentucky.