The heart of the matter: 3d printing can save lives

SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD Ma Chengqiang and 8-month-old Yang Youhong, both from remote Qinghai Province, owe their lives to 3D printing.

The two children are beneficiaries of a charity called Little Hearts of China, which arranges life-saving heart surgery in Shanghai, utilizing 3D printing technologies.

The project, which focuses on helping children from impoverished rural regions, is sponsored by the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center and Materialise, a Belgium-based 3D printing software and service provider.

Doctors can print out models of a patient’s heart based on CT imaging. Diseased areas are marked by different colors and materials. That allows surgeons to see clearly what they are dealing with and what needs to be done. That’s important in higher-risk surgeries involving babies and the elderly.

“The technology is a beacon of hope for these children,” said Liu Jinfen, head of the center’s heart disease research institute.