Children’s Health is working with a company to develop software that displays holograms of the heart, in addition to using 3D printing, to advance cardiac care. The 3D technology used in the software will also be used to prepare surgeons and industry peers as well as teach parents about their child’s condition.
Children’s Health and Canada-based NGRAIN has started employing 3D mapping to create interactive virtual models of the heart to help plan for surgeries and other procedures. 3D mapping enables highly customized imaging specific to each patient’s diagnosis. According to Dr. Tarique Hussain, pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Health, 3D visualization is used when there is a “difficult procedure, and the surgical decision-making is difficult. This kind of 3D planning really helps.” In addition to aiding the procedure, using 3D imaging reduces the amount of radiation a patient needs in the planning process and increases the accuracy of the procedure overall.
The 3D mapping procedure involves two steps: first is obtaining pictures of the heart through CT, MRI, or echocardiography. Second, the photos are scanned through dedicated software to depict those images in a 3D format. Hussain says “the format can either be a 3D TV image for planning purposes or an actual model printed in 3D.”
The key to an accurate 3D model is to ensure that the images are of high quality. After 3D imaging is complete, the model can be used to plan the procedure and show families in 360 degrees what will be taking place during surgery; afterward, the models can be used for further training others in the hospital.
These advances in cardiothoracic surgery and trans-catheter interventions through 3D printing and 3D visualization allow health professionals to do more to help children with complex heart defects. Hussain, Dr. Tom Zellers from Children’s Health, and Dr. Shaq Qureshi from London have exemplified this by working on a catheterization procedure for a heart defect called sinus venosus defect.
When the doctors realized 3D imaging could be used to print the heart defect and a model stent could be placed, the 3D technology allowed for a minimally invasive technique to resolve this issue.
“For a lot of these cases, we would be able to deal with the defect without doing surgery,” Hussain said. “It’s a novel procedure and the 3D printing gave us the confidence that the procedure would work.” Qureshi has performed three of these procedures in London utilizing this technique, while Zellers has performed one at Children’s Health and is in the planning stages for another.
In addition to the 3D displays, Children’s Health has gained access to four 3D printers through its own hospital, UT Southwestern, and UT Dallas. Currently, Dr. Gerald Greil and Dr. Animesh Tandon are researching and spearheading the charge to determine what the impact is on outcomes for surgeons who use 3D models prior to operating.
In the future, Hussain envisions 3D visualization to become more important, with people using 3D TV and 3D holographics to plan procedures and review the imaging in multidisciplinary meetings.
“It will change the way doctors discuss the cases—moving from 2D imaging to 3D TV and eventually to 3D holograms of the heart,” he said.