3D-Printed aortas advise doctors on best choice for heart patients

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) - Engineers are exploring applications for 3D printers in the medical field, and the newest research is now going from the lab to the operating room. Experts at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center use CT scans to model a patient's aorta, then create a 3D-printed replica down to its exact texture based on the calcification in a patient's tissue.

"Using a simulator in a lab, we can replicate what happens in a patient's left ventricle," said Prasad Dasi, PhD, a biomedical engineer at The Ohio State University College of Engineering. "We pump a blood-like substance through the simulator, controlling the contraction, expansion and pressure to match that unique patient's anatomy."

The simulations allow them to observe the type of valve and specific placement that's best for that patient in order to avoid complications such as leaks, coronary blockages and blood clots.

Dasi and his research team meet weekly with doctors to decide together which approach is best for the patient.

"The ability to try and predict which valve will rest in there the most effectively, have the least amount of leakage and not impinge upon adjacent structures is critical," said Dr. Scott Lilly, an interventional cardiologist and co-director of the structural heart program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "These 3D models and discussions have directly informed how we approach many valve replacement procedures."

Without this technology, doctors use their best judgment based on CT imaging, the patient's history and experience with various valve options. Sometimes, potential complications surface after the aortic valve is placed.

"By doing these experiments, we can try to understand the potential problems for that patient and avoid them before surgery," said Dasi.

Source: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center