Local News

3D printing technology helps cardiologists save lives

SPOKANE, Wash. - Seth and Ingrid Powers adopted their son Nate from Mongolia, when he was about two and a half years old. The newest member of their family brought all the joys of having a new baby, but also something else. Nate was born with a congenital heart defect.

“He'd run around the house be short of breath after not really much exercise,” said Seth Powers.

"It was very complicated. His aorta was far removed from the left ventricle which it is supposed to be attached to,” said Dr. Carl Garabedian, a pediatric cardiologist at Sacred Heart.

On top of that, Nate had a condition known as pulmonary stenosis, meaning he had severe narrowing under neath his pulmonary valve.

It was a complicated condition that called for a complicated plan.

"I think they were at a dilemma point. They weren't sure exactly what to do," Powers said.

But new technology gave them an idea.

“Dr. Garabedian brought it to us as the best decision to have a 3D model made. We were like, wow, really? We can?  It can be done,” Powers said.

You might've heard of 3D printers being used to make car parts or tools- even food.

But think of the advancements it can make in hospitals for kids just like Nate.

“Our surgeons are very smart people, but at times it's not the best idea to make a decision on the fly, with a child in the operating room with their chest open,” Dr. Garabedian said.

These doctors don't get to make mistakes. Practice, in this case, makes more than perfect- it saves lives. 

“On the medical side it's allowing for complex surgeries to be approached that never would have been appraoched before,” said Bryan Crutchfield.

Crutchfield is the managing director at Materialise, wthe company that made Nate's 3D heart.

“In the past,  you could say oh we made this part on that car, but in the 3d printing in the medical space you can tell em, you know what, we saved this kids life today. It's really wonderful to be a part of that,” he said.

Nate had what was called a Rastelli operation which was a safer surgery made possible by the practice surgeons had on the 3D model.,

“He's now 5 years old after he's had his surgery and doing well,” his dad said.

“Nate has an excellent prognosis at this point. His heart has been completely repaired. And, the way that his heart is at this point can really last him for the rest of his life,” Dr. Garbedian said.