Three-dimensional modelling and three-dimensional printing in pediatric and congenital cardiac surgery
Three-dimensional (3D) modelling and printing methods greatly support advances in individualized medicine and surgery. In pediatric and congenital cardiac surgery, personalized imaging and 3D modelling presents with a range of advantages, e.g., better understanding of complex anatomy, interactivity and hands-on approach, possibility for preoperative surgical planning and virtual surgery, ability to assess expected results, and improved communication within the multidisciplinary team and with patients. 3D virtual and printed models often add important new anatomical findings and prompt alternative operative scenarios. For the lack of critical mass of evidence, controlled randomized trials, however, most of these general benefits remain anecdotal. For an individual surgical case-scenario, prior knowledge, preparedness and possibility of emulation are indispensable in raising patient-safety. It is advocated that added value of 3D printing in healthcare could be raised by establishment of a multidisciplinary centre of excellence (COE). Policymakers, research scientists, clinicians, as well as health care financers and local entrepreneurs should cooperate and communicate along a legal framework and established scientific guidelines for the clinical benefit of patients, and towards financial sustainability. It is expected that besides the proven utility of 3D printed patient-specific anatomical models, 3D printing will have a major role in pediatric and congenital cardiac surgery by providing individually customized implants and prostheses, especially in combination with evolving techniques of bioprinting.