In the past few years, the prevalence of 3D printing has rapidly expanded, quickly becoming more and more commonplace in many aspects of society. The technology has gotten more precise and cheaper, making it easier for the average person to pick up a 3D printer and use blueprints to print a wide variety of objects. The medical field has also begun to make use of the technology, and surgeons at Cook Children’s Medical Center used a 3D printer to save a young girl’s life.
Ivy Chacon, born in 2015, suffered from a rare combination of heart defects that made her case particularly unique. With Ivy’s heart chambers facing the wrong direction and the heart itself on the wrong side of her chest, the surgeons were stepping into uncharted territory when it came to surgical intervention. “We have to stop a baby’s heart to do complex reconstruction. The longer it takes, the more problems there will be afterwards,” said Ivy’s cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Vincent Tam. In order to make sure the surgery was both quick and precise, Ivy’s surgical team took advantage of 3D printing technology to create a replica of Ivy’s heart for practice.
This isn’t the first time 3D printing has broken new ground in the medical field. In 2015, the Food and Drug administration approved the first 3D printed drug. The agency hopes that the technology can be leveraged to boost efficiency when it comes to drug manufacturing. 3D printers have also been used to print prosthetic devices, hearing aids, and teeth.