Three-dimensional printed models in congenital heart disease
The technology of three-dimensional (3D) printing, also referred to as ‘‘rapid prototyping,’’ ‘‘additive manufacturing,’’ and ‘‘stereolithography,’’ refers to the process of converting a 3D computerized model into an actual physical object. This technology became a reality in 1986 as a result of the innovative thinking of inventor Charles Hull (US patent no. 4575330). Currently the ‘‘entry-level’’ 3D printing machines on the market can lay down layers of material (plastic, metal, etc) onto a platform until a 3D model is complete. More advanced algorithms can use a laser as the power source to bind powdered materials, ranging from nylon to steel, to create a solid structure. Inkjet technology has also revolutionized 3D printing; materials are jetted through print heads while being cured by an ultraviolet light into a 3D object. Three-dimensional printing has been successfully used in medicine to make prosthetic limbs, custom hearing aids, and dental fixtures and is now being used to create more complex structures, such as cardiac models in patients with congenital heart disease. In this issue of JASE, Olivieri et al. describe their experience with creating 3D printed models from echocardiographic volumetric data sets in a series of nine patients, eight with ventricular septal defects (VSDs) and one with periprosthetic valvular leaks. In this editorial, we offer an overview of how technological explorations in 3D printing as carried out by Olivieri et al. will be fundamental to our understanding of the third dimension, elevating our impressions from textured flat-panel colored perspectives to real-time exploration of complex cardiac surface architecture, with the potential to guide personalized care of patients with structural heart disease.