3D-printed heart saves boy with congenital heart defect

Published: Jan. 2, 2018 at 2:11 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

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 his mom, Katrina, was pregnant, doctors told her that Ethan probably wouldn’t survive his birth.

“We didn’t go out and buy all the cute little boy clothes and toys,” she said, “Because the chance of him actually coming home was so slim.”

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,” said Ethan.

To help him, Cleveland Clinic doctors used state-of-the art imaging to print a 3D replica of Ethan’s heart.

“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,” said Dr. Kenneth Zahka, a pediatric cardiologist at Cleveland’s Clinic.

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,” said Dr. Hani Najm, Chair of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery, “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.”

The surgery was a success. Ethan’s oxygen levels jumped to 95 percent.

He went from wheelchair bound to shooting hoops a year later.

“They cut open my chest,” said Ethan, “And then fixed my heart.”

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

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


TOPIC: 3D Heart Saves Ethan’s Life!

REPORT: MB #4356

BACKGROUND: Heterotaxy syndrome (isomerism) is a rare birth defect that involves the heart and other organs. The word means different arrangement. There are different forms of heterotaxy syndrome, though all usually involve heart defects of varying types and severity. In addition to heart defects, organs such as the intestines, stomach, liver, and lungs may be in abnormal places in the abdomen and chest. The intestines may have malrotation, or there also may be irregularities with the skeleton and central nervous system. In some cases the spleen may not work or may be missing, which can cause problems fighting off infection. Some children with heterotaxy syndrome may have morphing in the structure of the heart.



OPEN-HEART SURGERY: Any type of surgery where the chest is cut open and surgery is performed on the arteries, muscles, or valves of the heart is known as open-heart surgery. Coronary artery bypass grafting is the most common type of heart surgery done on adults. Open-heart surgery is sometimes called traditional heart surgery. Today, many new procedures can be performed with only small incisions, and not wide openings. This term “open-heart” can be misleading in these circumstances. It may be done when a patient suffers from hardening of the arteries, or to repair damage or abnormal areas of the heart, and to implant medical devices to help the heart beat properly, amongst other things. Risks for open-heart surgery include but are not limited to chest wound infection, heart attack or stroke, chest pain and low fever, blood loss or clotting, and even pneumonia.



NEW TECHNOLOGY: Cleveland Clinic used a state-of-the-art imaging machine to print a three dimensional model of patients’ organs, which enabled them to see inside the structure and create a better surgical plan for each individual’s anatomy. Some researchers are taking it a step further and using human cells as layering material. One day it may allow scientists to create living, functional organs in a laboratory. For now, patients like Ethan have successful surgeries as a result of the 3D model of his heart.