Out of all of our recent technological advancements, none feel more futuristic than 3D printing. It's like something out of Star Trek: using hot plastic and 3D modeling software, people can create just about anything. On top of that, the cost of 3D printing has already come down significantly, meaning that just about anyone can do it. A lot of technology claims to fundamentally change how we do things, but very few of them actually make an impact like 3D printing has.
One area that's continued to benefit from 3D printing is medicine. Prosthetic limbs used to cost thousands of dollars each (they need to be updated as patients grow), but with 3D printing, new limbs cost a fraction of the price. On top of that, entire bone replacements have been sculpted and created with 3D printing, and now, a little girl owes her life to the technique.
Adanelie Gonzalez, a four-year-old girl from Miami, faced major heart complications from the moment she was born. After two open heart surgeries, doctors were afraid that there wasn't much else they could do...until a 3D model of Adanelie's heart was printed.
Essentially, the 3D model served as a map: the doctors already had precise data about her heart, but there was no way to examine it on such a detailed level before. Being able to manipulate the model in their hands allowed doctors to find a solution: using parts from a donor heart, they were able to connect Adanelie's heart to her lungs healthily for the first time. The procedure required an insane level of detail and precision - something that wouldn't have been possible without the model of Adanelie's heart.
It was an operation that had never been attempted before - but, after three major heart surgeries in four years, Adanelie finally has a chance to lead a normal life. The doctor's prognosis concerning Adanelie's life expectancy has jumped from 'days and weeks' to 'years and decades.'
The story of this little girl is absolutely amazing - not only did 3D printing help her doctors make a diagnosis, but it allowed for an entirely new procedure to be developed. As 3D printing technology continues to grow and advance, stories like this could become more and more common.
For the first time in history, stories like this - stories of children with defective organs or disfigurements - can actually have a happy ending.