3D printing technology has assisted in life-saving heart surgery performed on a 14-month old child, with the J.B Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville producing a printed model of the child's heart prior to the procedure, allowing the doctors to better prepare for the operation.

Chief of Radiology at Kosair Children's Hospital Philip Dydysnki approached the school when he and his medical team were looking at ways of treating Roland Lian Cung Bawi, a boy born with four heart defects.

Using images taken from a CT scan of Roland's heart, researchers from the school's Rapid Prototyping Center were able to create and print a 3D model of the organ 1.5 times its actual size. Built in three pieces using a flexible filament, the printing reportedly took around 20 hours and cost US$600.

Cardiothoracic surgeon Erle Austin III then used the model to devise a surgical plan, ultimately resulting in the repairing of the heart's defects in just one operation.

"I found the model to be a game changer in planning to do surgery on a complex congenital heart defect," said Austin.

Roland has since been released from hospital and is said to be in good health.

You can hear from the people involved in the procedure in the video below.

Source: University of Louisville