Stratasys 3D printed heart

Stratasys Ltd., the 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions company, published the medical success story of 5-year-old Mia Gonzalez. The girl suffered from a rare heart malformation called double aortic arch, a condition in which a vascular ring wraps around either the trachea or esophagus, restricting airflow. The life-threatening condition could only be repaired through an intricate operation. A 3D printed model of Mia's heart enhanced the planning phase so the surgical team could optimally visualize Mia's specific heart structure, shown in this video.

"With a 3D printed model, we were able to figure out which part of her arch should be divided to achieve the best physiological result."

-Dr. Redmond Burke, Director, Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery, Nicklaus Children's Hospital, Miami

"The challenge is a surgical one, how do you divide this double aortic arch and save her life without hurting her," said Dr. Redmond Burke, Director of Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, part of Miami Children's Health System. "By making a 3D model of her very complex aortic arch vessels, we were able to further visualize which part of her arch should be divided to achieve the best physiological result. It's very powerful when you show a family ‘this is your baby's heart and this is how I'm going to repair it.'"

Often misdiagnosed as asthma, Mia's symptoms included labored breathing and choking. Once the condition was diagnosed using a CT scan at Nicklaus Children's, Mia's family was told she would need surgery to repair the arches in her heart.

A 3D Printed Heart Model

As a rule, surgeons prefer to develop a plan before entering complex operations. Unfortunately, no two people are alike - with each organ differing from those in textbooks. To improve patient outcomes, surgeons at Nicklaus Children's Hospital have begun to leverage advanced tools, including Stratasys 3D Printers - charting a course using lifelike 3D printed organs.

"Once patient scan data from MR or CT imaging is fed into the Stratasys 3D Printer, doctors can create a model with all its intricacies, specific features and fine detail. This significantly enhances surgical preparedness, reduces complications and decreases operating time," said Scott Rader, GM of Medical Solutions at Stratasys.

After 3D printing and examining Mia's heart model, Dr. Burke determined the best course of action by scrutinizing and visualizing the surgical solution on the model. The heart model supported doctors in performing an extremely successful surgery.

Mia recovered quickly and is finally living the life of a happy and healthy child. "Going from four-and-a-half years of not knowing to being back to normal in less than two months: That's been a great experience for us," said Mia's mother, Katherine Gonzalez.

The 3D Printing Solution

Stratasys reseller, AdvancedRP, supplies 3D anatomical models to the hospital for surgical planning purposes. The models are produced by a Stratasys Objet500 Connex3 Multi-Material 3D Printer. Medical models can be created to simulate the same flexibility of human organs, allowing surgeons to accurately practice procedures. The 3D printer offers a wide range of material properties, enabling anatomical models to accurately replicate organs, flesh or mimic the rigidity of bone. Based on the success of recent surgeries, the hospital has now installed its own Stratasys 3D Printer.

Founded in 1950 by Variety Clubs International, Nicklaus Children's Hospital - part of Miami Children's Health System - is South Florida's only licensed specialty hospital exclusively for children, with more than 650 attending physicians and over 130 pediatric sub-specialists. The 289-bed hospital is renowned for excellence in all aspects of pediatric medicine with several specialty programs ranked among the best in the nation in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015-16, by U.S. News & World Report. The hospital is also home to the largest pediatric teaching program in the southeastern United States and has been designated an American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Magnet facility, the nursing profession's most prestigious institutional honor. For more information, please visit