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Learn More About The 3DPrintHeart Program

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For the last decade The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) has been utilizing 3D printed heart models to assist doctors in the management of patients with complex congenital heart disease. This work was pioneered and driven by Dr Shi-Joon Yoo with the support of the surgeons, physicians and engineers within SickKids. Doctors now have a new tool in their armory to diagnose and plan treatment strategies for these patients, some with the rarest and most complex heart defects.

The primary focus of the 3DPrintHeart program include:

Clinical – a tool for surgical and interventional treatment strategies.

Education – the training and development of the next generation
of surgeons and physicians in congenital heart disease.

Research – using 3D printed heart models to study cardiac disease. 

In this ever evolving industry, we believe that 3D printing will become an instrumental adjunct in the care of patients worldwide.

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Our Process
Segmentation & Design

Real-life images in the form of CT or MRI are regularly taken for the diagnosis of patients with complex congenital heart disease. However, understanding the patient’s anatomy from these images requires a complicated process of mental reconstruction and can often be inaccurate or wrong. These scans can be used to capture the blood containing cavities within the body on a computer and segmented to focus on the structure desired for printing.


This data is converted into a file which can be altered to produce a model that is ready to be 3D-printed. During this process the models can be hollowed and trimmed to show particular aspects of the heart that would otherwise be difficult to see. Other structures, such as heart valves and coronary arteries can also be superimposed onto the model to increase its ‘realness’.

3D Printing

The completed heart files are loaded onto a 3D-printer and materials assigned. These can vary from rigid plastic to soft pliable models that can be used for surgical simulation. Each layer of the 3D-printed heart is made by depositing both the designated material alongside a support material. This supports the structural integrity of the model during the print. With current technology a full-size pediatric heart can take between 5-10 hours to print depending on its size.

Post Process & Quality Check

After the model is printed, it is harvested and the supporting material is either washed out with a waterjet, blown away with an airjet or dissolved away with chemicals and water. Depending on the material and the complexity of the model this can take between a few minutes to an hour. This process requires a great degree of care as printed structures can be less than 1mm in thickness. During the printing process, colours can be assigned to the model, however this involves a mixing of materials which changes the chemical composition of the heart model. Alternatively, models can be printed in a clear colour and dyed following the washing process.   

Ready For Use

The model is now ready to use. Depending on the requirements of the model they can be used to:

  1. Demonstrate the complex heart anatomy to the doctor assisting them in their patient’s management strategy

  2. Used by a junior surgeon to rehearse a complex repair in a safe, non- consequential environment

  3. Used as an education tool to teach doctors and students

  4. To help explain the diagnosis and treatment to patients and their parents.

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