In March of this year, a 65 year old man was ready to undertake a procedure to repair a ventricular septal defect (VSD). A ventricular septal defect is an abnormal hole in the heart that forms between the heart’s lower pumping chambers. This allows oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to mix. The oxygen-rich blood then gets pumped back to the lungs instead of out to the body, causing the heart to work harder.
The physician requested for a 3D anatomical model with the heart in clear (transparent) resin, with the VSD highlighted and the coronary arteries highlighted in red. This was because they wanted to enter through the left chamber parallel to the descending artery. With the severity of going through such a complicated operation, the physician wasn’t 100% sure how to cut the specimen and leave the septum intact. By having this model, this lack of certainty was removed and the surgical team were able to proceed with full confidence on their refined plan.
The patient’s own understanding of the surgery proposed significantly increased, which in turn made the consent process more informed and consensual, as the physician was able to physically show the patient what the current problem and the resulting outcome of the procedure was going to be on a physical model.
There was a significant amount of time saved within the diagnosis of the patient and planning before this procedure. By having an exact plan of what will happen during the procedure, the physician was able to bring into surgery only the equipment that was necessary, saving money on sterilisation of these tools. An excited quote from the physician explains, “As the patient had a hole in his ventricular septum, by using this model I could plan how I could do the operation and run through it with my assistant before the procedure.”
The outcome of this procedure was very successful, saving over 60 minutes in surgery. This resulted in the patient undergoing a smaller amount of anaesthetic and spending less time in hospital. The physician told us that these 3D models are absolutely vital for cases like these.