November 9, 2018
3D Life provided the 3D-printed heart models used for the first European Hands-on Surgical Simulation Workshop in Congenital Heart Surgery, which was organized by the European Congenital Heart Surgeons Association (ECHSA) and the Surgery Working Group of the Association for European Pediatric and Congenital Cardiology (AEPC) at the “Athens Crossroad”, an International Cardiovascular Surgery Congress which took place at the historic Zappeion Congress Hall in Athens, Greece from 8-10 November, 2018. 3D Life, using state of the art 3D-printing technology, created anatomically precise life-size models of the heart of a baby born with the complex congenital anomaly known as transposition of the great arteries (TGA). These models were used for the first European Hands-on Surgical Simulation Workshop in Congenital Heart Surgery, which was organized by the pre-eminent European Scientific societies for pediatric and congenital heart diseases during the “Athens Crossroad” International Cardiovascular Surgery Congress in Athens, Greece from 8-10 November, 2018. During the Workshop, internationally recognized surgical experts taught the arterial switch operation (ASO), the complex corrective operative procedure necessary for babies with TGA. It is well known that more than 100,000 children are born with various types of congenital heart disease every year in Europe alone, and more than 1.3 million world-wide. To treat these children, frequently extremely complex operations are necessary, such as the ASO. Such pediatric heart operations are very difficult to teach to trainees, because training involves a process during which a trainee is allowed to perform gradually parts of the operation on successive real patients. Because of the relative rarity of many complex conditions, and because of the obvious need to minimize the risk to the patients from possible suboptimal actions of the trainees during the operation, which are possible despite more senior supervision, acquiring adequate training can take many years. A possible way to shorten training is surgical simulation, during which trainees can practice on animal hearts. However, training on animal hearts is not useful for simulating pediatric cardiac operations because in pediatric procedures the goal is to repair hearts born with congenital defects, whereas animal hearts that could be used in simulations are all normal and do not exhibit the anatomic defects being repaired. 3D Life provides a novel, in fact, a revolutionary educational method of teaching complex surgical procedures, prime examples of which are pediatric cardiac operations. Extremely accurate physical models of real patients’ hearts, which have the anatomic pathologic conditions requiring repair, are produced by 3D printing technology. The surgical trainees can then use the models to practice the indicated operation an unlimited number of times on 3D models, without any risk to the patient. As a result, trainees will gain the necessary experience much faster, with no risk to patients, and will be much better prepared for the particular procedure, when a patient with such a condition is encountered. This unique surgical simulation workshop (a European first and first in a series planned by ECHSA) presented a fantastic opportunity for younger surgeons to learn and practice the challenging technique of this “cornerstone operation” in modern pediatric heart surgery, was evaluated very highly by all participants, and represented a major contribution to the surgical education of the congenital heart surgery community. 3D Life believes that this extremely successful first European dry-lab Surgical Hands-on Simulation Workshop in Congenital Heart Surgery serves as an important milestone and represents a significant paradigm for surgical training (even outside the field of congenital heart disease), and also in training for other patient-specific interventional procedures.