3-D Heart Modeling Program

Rigid 3-D heart model of a Rady Children's patient with a congenital heart defect (model is enlarged to show detail).

Nearly one in every 100 babies born has a congenital heart defect (CHD), and about 25 percent of those babies will require surgery or other procedures before their first birthdays. Children with extremely complex heart defects represent 20 percent of all heart surgeries at Rady Children’s Hospital (about 100 surgeries per year).

As medicine and technology continuously evolves, our ability to examine and understand a child’s heart has become increasingly precise; conventional ultrasound has given way to high-resolution cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (cMRI) and cardiac computed tomography (cCT) scanning. We are now at the cusp of another technological leap, as 3-D printing technology allows a physician to go from evaluating an image of a patient’s heart on a screen to holding a model in their hands.

Flexible 3-D heart model of a Rady Children’s patient with a congenital heart defect (model is actual size).

This technology represents the inevitable future of medicine. Currently, insurance companies will not reimburse for the use of these models; however, within the next five to ten years, it is widely believed that this technology will become standard of care.

Rady Children’s is the first hospital in San Diego to launch a 3-D Heart Model Program to inform surgical planning, patient family education, and medical training.

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Supporting this innovative program can help to save children’s lives today, while positioning Rady Children’s to impact the future of pediatric medicine.

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The Models

Dr. John Lamberti explaining the complex heart anatomy using a 3-D printed heart model.

In the spring of 2015, Rady Children’s Hospital pioneered the use of 3-D heart models in our Cardiology division, under the direction of John Lamberti, M.D.

The Hospital is working in tandem with imaging and bioinformatics specialists at UC-San Diego. The Cardiology division has developed a relationship with Incept 3D, a San Diego-based 3-D printing firm, as well as with several other 3-D printing providers in California and worldwide. Using open-source software to manipulate hospital cCT and cMRI images, Rady Children’s cardiologist Sanjeet Hegde, M.D., Ph.D. and his team create custom data files and commission the printing of patient heart models: flexible models at actual size and/or rigid models enlarged to show greater detail.

These models are used to educate families about their children’s impending heart surgeries for complex congenital heart disorders; they can also be used to assist surgeons and cardiologists in planning surgeries and for training the next generation of cardiac medical staff.

For more information, please contact Laura Lavoie, Director of Philanthropy, at llavoie@rchsd.org or (858) 966-8987.