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SAN DIEGO – Surgeons at Rady Children’s hospital are now using 3-dimensional imagery to evaluate and better understand patient with complex heart conditions.

“You can actually look at the heart, rotate the heart and look at the relationship of all the different structures,” said Dr. Sanjeet Hegde, Pediatric Cardiologist.

Dr. Hegde specializes in cardiac imagery.  For the last 6 months, Hedge has been working with San Diego 3D printing companies to produce models of patient’s hearts.  The models allow physicians to visualize the heart’s anatomy in ways never before possible.

“We find it’s particularly applicable to children with complex heart defects,” said Dr. Hegde.

To create the model, Dr. Hegde puts the imaging data from a patient’s cardiac CT and MRI scans into a special software program to generate a computer aided design file.  Then the file is sent to local 3-D printers.

“What we have had to do up until this point we have to reconstruct the two dimensional images into 3D in our minds,” said Dr. John Lamberti, Cardiovascular Surgeon.

“If you have the model then the operation can be done more expeditiously,” Lamberti.

The print outs average a cost of $500 to $600, which insurance does not cover.

“We’ve received  some internal funding through the hospital to be able to perform these surgeries using these models,” said Hegde.

The internal research grant will allow for the production of 10  heart models, that will hopefully provide surgeons a clear picture of their value in the operating room.

“The reality is once you start looking at the 3D models you realize how much benefit is derived from a 3D model,” said Dr. Lamberti.