3D printed heart is saving lives

CLEVELAND -- (01/02/2018) -- Nearly one out of every 100 babies is born with some type of congenital heart defect. Some of these can be mild; others can be life-threatening. A surgery that saved one boy’s heart and gave him the chance to just be a kid.

Riding a bike might not seem like a big deal for most ten year olds, but for Ethan Bradley, it’s a huge milestone. When mom Katrina was pregnant, doctors told her Ethan probably wouldn’t survive his birth.

Katrina Bradley told Ivanhoe, “We didn’t go out and buy all the cute little boy clothes and toys because the chance of him actually coming home was so slim.”

But Ethan did come home; however his short life hasn’t been easy. He was born with a congenital heart defect called heterotaxy syndrome. The organs in his chest were missing or in the wrong place, and his oxygen levels were only around 55 percent, making even the simplest activities impossible.

“Before my surgery, I couldn’t do anything,” Ethan said.

Kenneth Zahka, MD, Pediatric Cardiologist, Cleveland Clinic Children’s explained, “We needed some way of getting more blood flow to his lungs and doing that safely in a heart that had nothing right about it.”

So Cleveland Clinic doctors used state-of-the art imaging to print a 3D replica of Ethan’s heart. Being able to see inside the 3D structure allowed doctors to create a surgical plan to fix Ethan’s heart.

“The gist of the operation is rerouting on the inside to allow the blue blood to go to the lungs, that’s where it’s supposed to go, and the pink blood to come out of the heart to the body into the aorta,” Hani Najm, MD, Chair of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery, Cleveland Clinic Children’s explained.

The surgery was a success. Ethan’s oxygen levels jumped to 95 percent. He went from wheelchair bound to shooting hoops a year later.

Ethan explained, “They cut open my chest and then fixed my heart.”

“He has energy like he never has before, so it was a completely different kid,” Katrina said.

Ethan will probably need more surgeries down the road, but for now, he’s enjoying a smooth ride.

Before the procedure, Ethan’s skin was blue in color. Now, it’s a healthy pink.

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