Skip to main content

3D Printing comes to St. Francis

By Bill Schapiro, Manager, Cardiac MRI

Posted April 4, 2019

Over the last year the Research department has been developing 3D printing of the patient’s heart. Dr. Jane Cao, who directs the development of the 3D printing, believes that cardiac surgeons and interventionists can benefit greatly by holding the physical structure in their hands when planning a complex procedure.

To create a 3D model we take the data from a patient’s CAT scan or MRI and extract the structure of interest. We then convert this data into a special type of file that will tell the printer how to build the model. St. Francis uses a very advanced form of 3D printing called SLA or Stereolithographic. SLA uses a laser beam and special resin that hardens when the laser hits it. The print is created by adding layer after layer of hardened resin, much like a cat scan. Each layer is very thin, about 0.1 mm thick. There are many types of resins we can use, clear, flexible, elastic or ridge depending on the type of tissue we are trying to emulate.

The first several patient heart models that we printed were for Dr. Neil Bercow who operated on cases with complex ventricular aneurysms and coronary aneurysms. He commented after he compared the printed heart model and what he saw in the operation, “These models are 100% helpful in the surgical treatment of these complex cases”. In a recent project we printed a cardiac model for a case of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy to help Dr. Albert DiMeo with surgical planning for a myectomy, an operation to remove part of the thickened ventricular septum to relieve the obstruction of the heart. Dr. DiMeo said that “the model reproduced the area of thickened myocardium very precisely” allowing him a better understanding of the area to be treated. We have also printed atrial appendages for watchman device fitting for Dr. Joseph Levine, who is the first physician at St Francis Hospital to implant the Watchman device for patient with atrial fibrillation.

The 3D printing program at St. Francis Hospital is one of the few in the nation that is dedicated to the advancement of cardiac clinical care. The 3D printed patient heart provides exquisite details of complex anatomy allowing procedures to be performed with advanced planning and high precision.

Please feel free to contact Bill Schapiro, Manager of Cardiac MRI at 516-629-2099 to discuss your project, if you need 3D printing of the heart to assist with patient care.