May 4, 2016
Dr. George Sarris, a Greek cardiosurgeon (Director of the 'Athenian Heart Surgery and Pediatric Heart Surgery Institute” and also director of the Pediatric Heart Surgery Clinic of 'Iaso' hospital), participates in a Competition of the American Medical Association for Medical Innovation (American Medical Association Innovation Challenge) with his program of 3D Heart Printing for congenital heart diseases (Project title: Printing Hearts: a heart in your hands).It is a revolutionary method of preoperative diagnosis for heart surgeries as the precise diagnostic data are imprinted to a three dimensional heart model.
“The heart print project” of Dr. Sarris (and his team) has already risen up to the first place on the website of the “American Medical Association Innovation Challenge”! The Greek cardiosurgeon has taken a leading part globally as he already applies the preoperational diagnosis of hidden and serious heart conditions, by creating the patient’s high fidelity 3D heart prototype. Real time imaging data are taken by cardiac catheterization, MRI’s and 3D scans and are inserted in the 3D printer. Afterwards, Dr. Sarris studies and traces not only at the outer coat of the organ but mostly in the interior of the heart, all the anatomic details and points that need surgical restoration.
The new diagnostic method was presented by “Ethnos” newspaper on November-11, 2015. Concealed details caused by complicated heart problems that were very often unobserved or undetected or were being detected only during the surgery, are now being found in time. As a result, the doctor can explain to the patient or the patient’s relatives thoroughly the condition and the operation required, but mainly, the surgeons’ team can plan with every single detail the suitable intervention method.
Cardiac surgeon Dr. George Sarris has already presented the first results of his 3 year study of the revolutionary method of planning a cardiac surgery operation based on 3D heart prototypes as a method of an additional and extremely useful diagnostic tool in cardiosurgery. Dr. Sarris’ study received exceptionally positive reviews.
Dr. Sarris is known at the international cardiosurgery community for his scientific studies but also for his tenure as a Professor of pediatric cardiosurgery and congenital cardiac diseases at Cleveland in USA and a series of internships at Harvard, Stanford etc. among which, he collaborated with the “father of heart transplantation” at heart transplants, Dr. Norman Shumway. Nowadays he is the Secretary General and President of the Committee of Clinical Research of “ECHSA” of the European Congenital Heart Surgeons Association. Since 1997 that he returned to Greece, he formatted right from the beginning the Pediatric Cardiology Department of “Onasseio” Hospital, in 2007 the Department of “Mitera” Hospital and in 2013 of “Iaso” Hospital, having already performed surgery in about 8.000 cases. Many of them included severe cardiac diseases of patients of all ages but mostly children.
“We already have gained experience by a series of cases, as the implementation of “3D Printing” technology, literally “untied our hands” or to better said “opened our eyes” and “showed us the right path”, as Dr. Sarris characteristically says. “I mention indicatively some cases as one of a 5-year old girl who suffered from complex cyanotic heart disease, a combination of “complete atrioventricular canal”, “double outlet right ventricle” and “Fallot tetralogie”, with “pulmonary valve stenosis” and previous surgical history. The usual medical examinations did not allow the doctors to decide if and through which procedure the case could be treated. We created a true prototype of the child’s heart, which we could study and handle by ways that would be impossible for a heart to deal with during a surgery and gave us the potential to plan accurately the most suitable way of surgical intervention. The operation was performed thereinafter with no complications, the girl recovered rapidly and she still continues living normally.
In a different case, there was a little boy with cardiac disease and a very serious condition of “tracheal stenosis”. Also in that case the creation of a 3D prototype, allowed us to plan the best approach for the surgical intervention. There is also another characteristic young patient’s case suffering from a complex heart disease that several major Pediatric Cardiology Centers around the world were not able to give a definite opinion of the suitable surgical treatment and were just answering that “We will decide while we operate”! The 3D model that we created gave us the required clear guidelines and the patient also comprehended and emotionally accepted the suggested treatment method.
We have several cases with children that are suffering from complicated pulmonary valve stenosis, following operations of great vessels bypass that the heart’s 3D prototype showed us exactly where to intervene during the operation. The idea of using a 3D heart prototype came to me 4 years ago when a family with a little girl suffering from a very complicated congenital heart disease, asked for my help”, Dr. Sarris adds. “The girl had been operated in a major foreign cardiac surgery center by a particularly experienced and capable colleague. During the surgery, when the surgeon faced the actual anatomy, he realized that it was really different from the anatomy showed by the multiple imaging tests that were carried out preoperatively. The surgeon correctly chose, to stop the operation without any intervention. Having my colleague’s diagnosis and enough time to think and plan the treatment, the child was operated eventually and this time the defect was treated. We thought about how useful would be to have a natural heart prototype model so that the possibility of a “surprise” during the operation would be minimized. Our relevant researches have revealed us the technology of 3D printing that was already implemented during the last years with relevantly many simple applications on Dentistry and Orthopedics but rare applications on Cardiac surgery and Pediatric Cardiac surgery. We thought that adapting these techniques in Cardiac surgery would be greatly beneficial, so we did. Meanwhile, we followed up similar efforts of various applications in medicine, at some foreign centers, large hospitals, universities in Europe and USA and we exchanged opinions with our colleagues. We formed, here in Athens, an exceptional scientific and technical team and we have already started creating 3D heart and other organs’ prototypes.
The advantages of the precise preoperational planning are extended also in defaulting suitable transplants, based on the actual anatomy in surgery but also in interventional cardiology by “stents”. In the long run, the opening of these new horizons is exceptionally important for surgical training. I believe that the expansive adoption of this kind of surgical simulation programs will be a real revolution for cardiosurgeons’ training, who objectively face the most complicate anatomic conditions. In the future, besides printing cardiac surgical implants, which at their first level are printed by aggregates, we may have the potential to insert cells of the patient himself such as stem cells into the custom made precise printed implants, so that the creation of functional and live implants will be achieved and in this case we will approach our final goal which is the creation of live organs”, Dr. Sarris concludes.