The incorporation of 3D imaging and 3D modeling into medical practice is one of the peaks of medical technology to date. Recently, a rare heart condition of a 5-year old girl was fixed with the assistance of a high-tech 3D printed model of her heart.

Mia Gonzalez suffered from a heart problem that medics call double aortic arch, in which either the trachea or esophagus is choked by an abnormal vascular ring, which blocks normal airflow. The highly complex surgery to mend the arches of the girl's heart required that doctors have a full image of the affected organ. It was for this reason that surgeons at the Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami commissioned the production of a 3D printed model of her heart — it allowed them to prepare for the highly intricate operation.

Doctors rely on MRI and CT scans to provide them with sufficient data for the creation of 3D models. Not only does it help them practice before a procedure, but sometimes patients want to better understand what the procedure will entail.

Stratasys, a 3D printer company that uses cutting-edge technology and infrastructure, was in charge of the printing. A Stratasys Objet500 Connex3 Multi-Material 3D Printer can manufacture items out of an ample selection of materials, some of which are designed to imitate the physical properties of various human tissue and bones.

Dr. Redmond Burke – The director of Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery at Nicklaus Children's Hospital – explained that the surgery would have been challenging without a 3D model.

"By making a 3D model of her very complex aortic arch vessels, we were able to further visualize which part of her arch should be divided," he noted. Dr. Burke said that seeing the tiny model of their Mia's heart had a huge impact on her family, and that involved understanding the modus operandi for repairing it.

Thanks to the highly detailed 3D model, the surgery went well and now Mia is living a healthy life.  

Mia's mother, Katherine Gonzalez, declared that shifting from almost five years of suffering and uncertainty to a normal life in less than two months was a great relief.

"That's been a great experience for us," she added.

The success of Mia's operation inspired the hospital managers to install a Stratasys 3D printer in the health facility.

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